Bernard Cazeneuve and François Zimeray: “Beyond humanitarian considerations, the refusal to repatriate children detained in Syria exposes us”

Tribune. Among the subjects which touch on the fight against terrorism, some remain in the blind spot of our conscience as of our policies because the emotion, the irrationality and the fear preside more often in their treatment. This is the fate of the 200 children, currently detained without rights, sometimes for more than three years, in the camps in northeastern Syria. Two-thirds of these children were under 6 when they entered, many were born there. So they spent all their childhood, at least most of it, between fences and barbed wire.

Their living conditions, where they are now held, are disastrous: all bear the stigma of their injuries and trauma and few who receive appropriate care or go to school. Many of them, during the summer of 2020, were locked in an underground prison for weeks, never to see the light of day. Between December 2018 and September 2019, in Al-Hol camp alone, 339 children died of malnutrition, cold or disease. From 1is January to 1is September 2021, more than 60 children died in camps in northeastern Syria.

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A few repatriations have taken place, in a trickle, but none since January 13, 2021, and there are today at least six French orphans in the Roj camp. Beyond humanitarian considerations, which would suffice to justify worrying about the fate of these children, there is little doubt that the refusal to repatriate them in order to better follow them and protect them from their environment, such as the impossibility in such a context of judging their parents, would place France, but also other European countries, in front of a major security risk: not to act exposes us to the danger of the reconstitution of terrorist groups and to uncontrolled returns. This observation is shared internationally by the greatest specialists in anti-terrorism, and has led the coordinator of French anti-terrorism judges to call for a “Political will to repatriate”, true “Long-term public safety and justice issue”.

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Indifference to human dignity, retreat from essential principles, general confusion and, on social media, uninhibited liberation from aggressive wickedness are features of our time. They cannot be the hallmark of our policy, nor an instrument for measuring our interests. The widespread idea that the end (our security) would justify the means (let us leave them to their fate) is contrary to what constitutes us as individuals and as a nation. It is also contrary to our shared objective of protecting the country from any new wave of attacks. What would happen to these children if we had to abandon them to the violence of their own environment, to an uncertain environment, from which they would be able to extract themselves, by turning against us a hatred built in time that keeps them out? of attack and that resentment would have been responsible for stirring up.

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Bernard Cazeneuve and François Zimeray: “Beyond humanitarian considerations, the refusal to repatriate children detained in Syria exposes us”