French Council of State rejects appeals to allow jihadist families to come home

People gather near the fence of al-Hol displacement camp in Syria, 8 March 2019
People gather near the fence of al-Hol displacement camp in Syria, 8 March 2019 Issam Abdallah/Reuters

The French Council of State has rejected appeals by families of people who had gone to Syria to join the Islamic State armed group, to allow their relatives to come home. France has said there would be no communal repatriation from Syria, and that the decision to allow children and relatives of jihadist fighters to return would be decided on a case by case basis. 


The Council of State, which acts as legal adviser to the French government and top arbiter of administrative cases, ruled Tuesday on four cases, three involving French women linked to the Islamic State who are currently being held, with their eight children, in a camp in Syria, and another filed by an uncle trying to have two young children repatriated from another Syrian camp under Kurdish control.

After looking at the requests on appeal, the Council said it did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter. It said allowing the women and children to return to France would require "negotiations with foreign authorities or an intervention on foreign soil," which was beyond its remit.

Hundreds of children

Up to 1,700 French nationals are thought to have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with the IS jihadists between 2014 and 2018, according to government figures. Around 300 are believed to have died in combat.

Hundreds of French and other foreign fighters and their families are being held in camps by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which led the final push against IS in Syria. According to the UN children's agency UNICEF, around 3,000 foreign children from 43 countries are being kept at the Al-Hol camp in Syria alone, which has taken in most of the people fleeing the defeat and collapse of the Islamic State.

Kurdish officials have warned they do not have the resources to hold all the captured fighters indefinitely.

But repatriation is politically fraught, and France has been wary of allowing any mass returns. Earlier this month Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that "no communal repatriation" would be considered, and each situation would be studied individually.

Last month, authorities for the first time brought home five orphaned children of French jihadists from camps in northeast Syria.

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