France paves the way for “generalized repatriation” of families of jihadists

On July 5, they did not receive the call they had been waiting for for so many years. Early that day, two planes chartered by the French government landed in Paris, with on board 51 nationals repatriated from the Syrian camp of Roj, where jihadists are detained: 16 women and 35 children. The hearts of Marc and Suzanne Lopez raced when they learned that the flights had arrived. Leonard, the son of these two retired teachers, joined Daesh in Syria in 2015. The couple hoped that their four grandchildren, trapped in the jihadist hell, were on board. But the phone didn’t ring. The children were not on the list of the first large-scale repatriation organized by France since the fall of the last Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State, in 2019.

The Lopez couple is however more optimistic than ever. The French government seems to have made an about-face, and relatives of minors still held in Syria believe that they can now count the days until all French children return to the country.

“It’s a complete turnaround,” rejoices Marc Lopez during a telephone interview. Until now, France maintained its “case by case” strategy, which allowed only children to return from detention camps, and only if they were orphans, unaccompanied minors or if their mothers agreed to take them in. let go alone. Since at least 2019, Paris had not repatriated any adults, arguing that they should be tried on the spot.

The extreme precariousness of life in the camps

The first collective repatriation at the beginning of July, including adults, is a clear sign that “nothing stands in the way of a generalized repatriation”, Also suitable is Vincent Brengarth, lawyer for Margaux Dubreuil, a Frenchwoman who is still in Syria with her three children. At least 150 other minors of French nationality and up to 100 women still live in extremely precarious conditions in Syrian camps in the hands of Kurdish forces.

Within the French government, no one has yet publicly confirmed the abandonment of “case by case”, a strategy which was still defended hard as iron at the beginning of 2022. The ecologist deputy Hubert Julien-Laferrière, who is in favor the repatriation of minors, do not think

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