The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing for countries to repatriate nearly 28,000 children from more than 60 countries, mostly in displacement camps in the northeast of Syria, “before it is too late”.
The camps, mainly Al-Hol, are home to around 12,000 foreigners: 4,000 women and 8,000 children from foreign families who were linked to ISIS.
The Syrian Democratic Forces supervise the camps, while European countries refuse to repatriate their arrested extremist citizens or their families.
UNICEF estimates nearly 28,000 children from more than 60 countries remain trapped in the region, mostly in displacement camps. This includes almost 20,000 from Iraq, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
“Children, whether in the northeast or elsewhere inside Syria, must not be abandoned while the walls of war close in around them,” Fore added.
So far, at least 17 countries have repatriated more than 650 children who are now living with family members.
The UN agency reports that more than 80 percent of the stranded foreign children in northeast Syria are under the age of 12, and half are under-fives. Additionally, around 250 boys are being held in detention, though that number is likely to be higher. Some are as young as nine.
The agency reports that around 40,000 Syrian children have been newly displaced across the region. Some have been separated from their families while others have been injured or disabled because of the violence.
Fore urged all sides in the conflict to ensure that aid workers can safely access all people in need.
The conflict in Syria, which has been ongoing since more than eight years, has left some 370,000 people dead.