Canada says it will repatriate 23 of its citizens from Syria

Move comes after the citizens, currently detained in camps for ISIL family members in Syria, challenged Ottawa in court.

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Canada has said it will repatriate six women and 13 infants who have been detained in northeast Syria in camps for family members of ISIL [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Canada is set to repatriate 23 of its citizens currently detained in camps for ISIL (ISIS) family members in northeastern Syria, according to officials and lawyers representing the citizens.

The repatriation, which represents the largest group of ISIL family members repatriated to Canada at one, was determined in two actions on Friday.

First, the foreign ministry said it had decided to repatriate six Canadian women and 13 infants who had been living in the locked camps.

Later, a federal court ruled that four men seeking repatriation as part of that group must also be sent back to Canada.

“I’ve spoken to the parents and they’re really, really happy,” said lawyer Barbara Jackman, who is representing one of the men.

In his ruling on Friday, federal judge Henry Brown directed Ottawa to request repatriation of the men as soon as reasonably possible and provide them with passports or emergency travel documents.

It was not immediately clear when the 23 individuals would be repatriated, or if they would face any legal consequences for alleged associations with ISIL.

Lawyers representing the citizens have argued that Ottawa is obligated to repatriate the group under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to Human Rights Watch, since ISIL’s territorial defeat in 2019, more than 42,400 foreign adults and children with alleged ties to the group have been held in camps in Syria run mostly by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The rights group warned in a 2020 report on Canadians in the camps, “The innocent, such as the children who never chose to be born or live under ISIS, have no hope of leaving. Meanwhile, any detainees potentially implicated in ISIS crimes may never face justice.”

At the time, Human Rights Watch said the Canadians in the camps included eight men, 13 women, and 26 children.

In 2020, Ottawa allowed the return of a five-year-old orphan girl from Syria after her uncle initiated legal action against the Canadian government.

Last October, Canada brought back two women and two children from the camps.

Among the men set to be repatriated following the most recent ruling is Jack Letts, a dual UK-Canadian citizen whose British citizenship was reportedly revoked in 2019.

Australia, Germany, France, Spain, the US, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have all repatriated citizens from Syria.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies