Germany and Denmark have brought home 11 women and 37 children from a camp in northeastern Syria where suspected members of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group have been held, the German foreign ministry has said.
Germany repatriated 23 children and their eight mothers on a charter flight which landed shortly before midnight on Wednesday (22:00 GMT) at Frankfurt airport. They had been living in the Roj prison camp in northeastern Syria, which is under Kurdish control.
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“The children are not responsible for their situation … the mothers will have to answer for their acts,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.
Denmark brought home 14 children and three women as part of the same operation, carried out with US military support, Berlin said.
Maas said he was “happy” to have brought back to Germany people, especially children, identified “as being in particular need of protection”.
“They are mostly sick children or those with a guardian in Germany, as well as their brothers and sisters and their mothers,” the foreign ministry said.
German federal prosecutors said three women were arrested on arrival at Frankfurt airport. They are accused of membership in a foreign “terror organisation”, taking the children with them against their fathers’ will and violations of their duties of care and education.
Countries have been wrangling over how to treat captives linked to ISIL since the group’s fall in March 2019.
Most European countries carry out repatriations on a case-by-case basis.
Germany’s last joint repatriation alongside Finland in December 2020 brought back five women and 18 children.