Paris (AFP) – French authorities on Tuesday repatriated 51 women and children from formerly Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria, according to a statement issued by the anti-terror prosecutor’s office.
It is the largest single return of women and children to France from camps in northeastern Syria since the territorial defeat of ISIS in March 2019. France has seen more of its citizens leave to join ISIS than any other country in Europe.
Tuesday’s group consists of 16 women aged 22 to 39 and 35 minors, seven of whom are able to go to France without adult escorts. All but two of the women in the group are French citizens. Twelve women returned with their children and 4 of them agreed earlier to the return of their children, according to a statement by the prosecution.
Eight women were detained for questioning, while the other eight were held under arrest warrants. The children were placed in the care of the Child Protection Services attached to the Versailles Court of Justice.
According to the Public Prosecutor’s statement, one of the 35 minors is in police custody on suspicion of participating in the activities of a terrorist criminal act. The statement said that the minor will soon turn 18 years old.
Many European countries were slow to allow the women and children back, lest they turn violently on their homelands. France, which has seen more of its citizens join ISIS in Syria than any other European country and suffered several deadly attacks at the start of 2015, has been particularly reluctant.
French authorities insisted that adults who fought with ISIS should be tried in the country where they committed the crimes.
In December, a 28-year-old French woman with diabetes died in a camp in Syria, leaving her 6-year-old daughter an orphan, according to the family’s lawyer, who has been requesting their return since 2019.