NATO allies of Turkey in Europe have been worried that Turkey’s offensive last month into a Syrian border area could lead to ISIL suspects and their families escaping from prisons and camps run by Kurdish forces. Ankara has dismissed the concerns.
Turkish authorities said on Monday they had begun to send ISIL detainees back to their home countries, deporting a German and a US citizen.
Seven prisoners deported from Turkey landed in Berlin, the Reuters News Agency said. The group included two men, four women and a child, the agency said.
Germany‘s Federal Foreign Office had said on Monday that Ankara had informed Berlin of 10 people it aimed to deport – three men, five women and two children. The ministry has said it does not know whether any were ISIL fighters but it confirmed their German citizenship.
German authorities were not expected to arrest them.
“The difficulty German authorities face is that under the German law, these people cannot be charged for any of their activities in the Middle East,” Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane said from Berlin.
“They are perceived innocent and they will go back to their lives in Germany.”
Police in the UK said they had arrested a 26-year-old man at Heathrow Airport in London on Thursday on suspicion of terrorism offences related to Syria. He had arrived from Turkey but it was not immediately clear if he was the British fighter that Turkey said it would deport.
US citizen to be deported
Separately, Turkey said on Thursday it would deport a US-citizen suspected ISIL fighter to his home country after he was refused entry to Greece.
Greek police said on Monday Turkish police had come to the Kastanies border post and requested that a US citizen of Arab descent accompanying them be let into Greece, as he had been arrested for exceeding his maximum permitted stay in Turkey.
The man was refused entry and returned to Turkey, Greek police said. However, Turkish state media said the man had remained in a buffer zone between Turkey and Greece.
The Turkish interior ministry said the US had agreed to take back the man, who had requested deportation to Greece prior to being denied entry, and that Turkish authorities had begun the necessary proceedings.
Washington is working closely with Turkey and Greece to track the case, said Nathan Sales, the US State Department’s counterterrorism adviser, who cautioned against asking nations to take on another country’s fighters.
“Our view is that it is not a feasible option, it is not a viable option, to ask other countries in the region to import another country’s foreign fighters and pursue prosecution and incarceration there,” Sales told reporters.
Turkey says it has captured hundreds of fighters in northeast Syria since launching a cross-border operation on October 9 targeting the Kurdish fighters there.
It says it has hundreds more in detention and has accused European countries of being loath to take back citizens who travelled to join rebels in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers from 30 countries have gathered on Thursday to work out how to handle ISIL prisoners in a meeting in Washington.
Thousands of ISIL fighters were jailed in the Kurdish-controlled territory after the collapse of the ISIL “caliphate” in 2017, and tens of thousands of their relatives are kept in camps there.
Turkey has said it will send some detained fighters to Ireland, Denmark and France in the coming days.