Plea to Repatriate Dutch Children Stuck in Jihadist Camps
The Netherlands must shoulder its responsibilities and bring home dozens of Dutch children left languishing in camps in Syria after their parents joined jihadist groups, the country's ombudswoman for children pleaded Thursday.
"The Netherlands must go and find the children who have been kept in the camps in Syria. To do nothing is unacceptable and against the convention on children's rights," said Margrite Kalverboer.
About 145 children of Dutch nationality or who have the right to Dutch citizenship are believed to be stuck in war zones in Syria and Iraq, according to the counter-terrorism body the NCTV.
At least another 30 minors "with links to the Netherlands are in the region, but outside of a conflict zone," Kalverboer said in a statement.
The Dutch government has so far insisted that families needing assistance should present themselves at diplomatic posts in Turkey or Iraq, maintaining the situation is too dangerous to go and collect them personally.
Only mothers who reach a Dutch embassy or consulate with their children can count on help.
But the ombudswoman hit out at what she called "a false solution", saying it was almost impossible for women and children "who are not allowed to leave the camps, and who are often without documents and means" to make such journeys.
"These children were first abandoned by their parents and now have been abandoned by the Dutch government," Kalverboer said.
"Several sources have indicated that these children have experienced horrific things. Things that children should never have to endure. And the conditions in the camps they are living in are terrible."
At least 280 people, a third of whom are women, left the northern European country to join jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, according to the NCTV.
According to its latest figures, 45 were killed, 45 have returned home and about 190 are still believed to be in the region.