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France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from northern Syria

France repatriated 35 children and 16 mothers from Kurdish-run camps in northern Syria where disease and malnutrition are rife.

In a statement, Paris said, "The minors have been handed over to the services responsible for child support and will be subject to medical monitoring. The mothers were handed over to the competent judicial authorities."

While the so-called Islamic State was ousted from territory it called a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq in 2019, many family members of alleged members have remained in custody in camps run by Kurds.

The charity Save the Children reported in September that two children die every week in the overcrowded Al-Hol camp. Rights groups have called for the French government to repatriate approximately 200 children who have been trapped in limbo in the camps.

The children were either brought to the territory previously controlled by the so-called Islamic State or were born while the terror group inflicted its brutal reign on the region.

In February, the UN Child Rights Committee said that "France has the responsibility and power to protect the children" in the Kurdish-controlled Raj, Ayn Issa and Al-Hol camps "against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them."

France has previously pushed back against the concerns of families of those who are alleged to have become foreign fighters, as well as rights groups citing the potential security threat.

In November 2015, Paris suffered a devastating attack with targets including Bataclan concert hall during a concert by the Eagles of Death Metal, in addition to other soft targets such as nearby cafes, which left 130 dead.

Since 2016, France has repatriated 126 children from northern Syria.

ar/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)