Canada repatriates 19 women and children from Syria

Canada repatriates 19 women and children from Syria

Canada has approved the repatriation of six Canadian women and 13 children detained for years in northeastern Syria, the largest repatriation of jihadist families ever organized by the country, Ottawa announced on Friday.

• Also read: Federal court decides on the repatriation of Canadians detained in Syria

• Also read: Montrealer arrested after returning from Syria on terrorism charges

The latter had taken legal action against the Canadian government, particularly believing that the authorities’ refusal to bring her back violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On Friday, Canada’s Foreign Ministry said it had finally “agreed on a resolution” that would only affect the women and children in the group and not the four men who are also involved in the lawsuit.

A federal court decision on the fate of these men is expected in the coming weeks.

So far, Justin Trudeau’s administration has dealt with this issue on a case-by-case basis, and in four years only a handful of women and children have been repatriated.

Since the disappearance of the “Caliphate” set up by the Islamic State (IS) organization in 2019, the repatriation of the wives and children of jihadists who have joined the ranks of ISIS has been a very sensitive issue in many countries.

Many NGOs denounce the governments’ lack of courage while these relatives of jihadists, including thousands of children, live in the Kurd-controlled al-Hol and Roj camps, where violence and deprivation abound.

About 30 Canadians, including 10 children, remain in camps in Syria, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

But “a number of women and children have received letters from the government saying they meet the conditions for repatriation,” Farida Deif, director of HRW in Canada, told AFP, who predicts more repatriations.

Authorities did not say when the 19 women and children would be repatriated, or what legal proceedings they might pursue against the women once they returned to Canadian territory.

Last October, Canada repatriated two women and two children detained in Syria. In 2020, Ottawa allowed the return of a 5-year-old orphan girl after her uncle filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government.