Human Rights Watch: Let Islamic State-linked Canadians in Syria to come home
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A rights group has called on Canada to repatriate 47 of its citizens, including 26 children “unlawfully detained in dire conditions” in northeast Syria, accused of having links to ISIL (ISIS).
On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting the situation the detainees were in and calling on Canada to urgently bring its citizens home, giving priority to children and other vulnerable detainees.
Since 2017, the Kurdish-led authorities in northeast Syria have repeatedly urged countries to repatriate their nationals, saying they lack the capacity to properly guard them. On 22 June, France repatriated 10 children from northeast Syria.
“The Canadian government has decided it is not convenient to discuss the issue politically,” Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher at HRW, told Al Jazeera.
“Canada has failed to provide moral authority on the issue of repatriation in Syria,” she said.
Canada’s foreign ministry, Global Affairs Canada, informed Al Jazeera in an email: “Given the security situation on the ground and the current COVID-19 context, the Government of Canada’s ability to provide any kind of consular assistance in Syria remains extremely limited.
“The security environment in northeastern Syria is unstable and highly complex. Intermittent combat operations between various armed actors and an ongoing terrorist threat from several violent extremist organizations are among the specific threats that could impact any government activities in this region.”
The report, Bring Me Back to Canada: Plight of Canadians Held in Northeast Syria for Alleged ISIS Links, said Canadians have been arbitrarily detained with other foreigners in “filthy and often inhuman and life-threatening conditions” by authorities in northeast Syria. It charges that the prisons in which men and boys are kept are severely overcrowded and medical care is “grossly inadequate”.
Women and children are kept in al-Holand Roj in heavily guarded open-air camps in al-Hasakah governorate. Intermittent water shortages could encourage the spread of COVID-19, HRW said.
During visits to al-Hol camp in June 2019, HRW found women and children living in tents that collapsed in strong winds or had flooded with rain or sewage. HRW researchers saw worms in water that children were drinking. Latrines were overflowing and garbage littered the grounds of the camps. Medical care and basic provisions such as diapers and sanitary towels were insufficient, the report said.
Source: Al Jazeera