Children of foreign fighters in Iraq, Syria must have rights protected: UNICEF

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (APP):Children of foreign fighters who traveled to Iraq and Syria to join Da’esh/ISIL terrorist group must have their rights protected and be repatriated to their country of origin as soon as possible, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
According to UNICEF, there are close to 29,000 foreign children in Syria alone – most of them under the age of 12.
Some 20,000 of these are from neighbouring Iraq – but more than 9,000 are from around 60 other countries.
A further 1,000 are thought to be in Iraq.
Addressing the fate of thousands of vulnerable children of foreign fighters who are living in camps, detention centers and orphanages in Syria, Iraq and other places in the world, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said on Tuesday they were being forced to live in generally “appalling conditions”.
Underlining the “constant threats to their health, safety and well-being”, she said they were being “doubly rejected – stigmatized by their communities and shunned by their governments”.
In the statement, Fore also said the children faced “massive legal, logistical and political challenges in accessing basic services or returning to their countries of origin”.
With an additional 1,000 children of foreign fighters believed to be in Iraq, Fore said that “all of them are victims of deeply tragic circumstances and egregious violations of their rights” and reiterated the importance of “treating and caring for them as children.”
In a related development, the UN human rights office, OHCHR , also expressed concern about the fate of people in Syria’s al-Hol camp – also in al-Hassakeh Governorate – who fled the last ISIL-held areas in the country as they were being reclaimed by Kurdish-led forces. Today, the camp hosts more than 70,000 people who face dire living conditions.
This includes some 2,500 children under 12 years old who were born to ISIL-affiliated fathers and have been allowed to stay with their mothers.
While the temporary restrictions of movement imposed on civilians at al-Hol and in other camps for internally-displaced people (IDPs) run by the Kurdish authorities may be part of a screening and vetting process, OHCHRSpokesperson Marta Hurtado said that she was concerned about the “lack of clarity regarding how long these restrictions will last”.
In north-west Syria, meanwhile, the UN official said that airstrikes and ground-based attacks continue to pound Idlib and Hama governorates, despite the announcement of a 72-hour ceasefire.
Since this latest military escalation started at the end of April, at least 105 civilians have been killed, and at least 200,000 people have fled the hostilities in southern Idlib and northern Hama, according to the UN office.
Both pro-Government forces and non-State armed groups have failed to respect international humanitarian law, Hurtado insisted.
From 8 to 16 May, “multiple attacks” by pro-government forces claimed the lives of at least 56 civilians – including many women and children.
The assaults also caused severe damage to five schools and one hospital, according to OHCHR, while in the same period, attacks by non-State armed groups were reported, causing at least 17 civilian deaths, mainly women and children.
“Military objects have been placed in close proximity to civilians and civilian objects, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries, and causing significant damage to civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, mosques, schools and markets,” the UN human rights office said in a statement.
Non-state armed groups have launched ground-based attacks on areas under the control of government forces, hitting residential neighbourhoods and refugee settlements in Hama governorate and Aleppo city, it said.