27,000 children stranded in refugee camps ‘at risk of radicalization’ by ISIS, UN official says
Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF
Around 27,000 children, many with parents who are affiliated with ISIS, remain in a refugee camp in northeastern Syria, the United Nations counterterrorism chief said, the Associated Press reported Saturday.
The thousands of children “remain stranded, abandoned to their fate” where they are exposed to ISIS and are “at risk of radicalization within the camp,” said Vladimir Voronkov, the undersecretary general for counter terrorism at the U.N., during an informal meeting on Friday, the AP reported. He added that there are children from 60 countries at the camps who need to be repatriated.
“The horrific situation of the children in Al Hol (camp) is one of the most pressing issues in the world today,” Voronkov said, the AP reported.
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Al Hol is the largest refugee camp in Syria with around 62,000 occupants, the AP reported. Over 80% of the people there are women and children who escaped to the camp after ISIS lost their last stronghold in the country in 2019.
Several countries, including Russia and Kazakhstan, have already repatriated around 1,000 children and their family members, Voronkov said, the AP reported. A U.N. official added that children under the age of 14 should be approached as victims and not detained or prosecuted.
“Every effort should be made to ensure children are not kept in institutions but allowed to reintegrate with family members within their communities,” Voronkov said, the AP reported.
The U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, said that children who are associated with extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida “have been left adrift by conflict,” the AP reported.
“They’re exposed to further trauma and stigmatization and are at risk because of their proximity to members of designated terrorist groups,” Gamba said, the AP reported.
Gamba added that the children have a right to nationality and their own identities, the AP reported. Gamba said that the children need to be repatriated and reintegrated into communities so that they can access education, health care and work.
“They must be given their childhood back in a safe environment where they can build a future away from violence,” Gamba said, the AP reported. “They deserve a chance at life, like any other child.”
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