A fire at a camp housing families of ISIS members killed three children and injured 15 others in northeastern Syria, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Sunday. .
UNICEF called for the reintegration and safe repatriation of all children in al-Hol camp and in northeastern Syria following the fire the day before. The cause of the fire that burned several tents in the sprawling al-Hol camp was not immediately clear, which has seen a sharp rise in crime in recent weeks.
Al-Hol is home to the wives, widows, children and other family members of ISIS militants – more than 80% of its 62,000 inhabitants are women and children. The majority are Iraqis and Syrians, but it includes some 10,000 people from 57 other countries, housed in a separate, highly secure area known as the Annex. Many of them remain staunch supporters of ISIS.
Hundreds of other teenagers are being held in prisons for belonging to ISIS, which once controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq. He lost his last piece of land, in eastern Syria, in March 2019.
“The children of Al-Hol face not only the stigma they live with, but also very difficult living conditions where basic services are scarce or sometimes unavailable,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ted Chaiban.
More than 22,000 non-Syrian children are stranded in al-Hol, in addition to thousands of Syrian children. On January 30, UN counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov urged countries of origin to repatriate the children, warning they were at risk of radicalization.
Although some countries have returned children and women from the camp, many others, including Iraq, have so far refrained from doing so.
Chaiban, the head of UNICEF said that the detention of children “is a measure of last resort and should be as short as possible”. He added that children should not be detained solely on the basis of suspected family ties to armed groups or the membership of their family members in armed groups.