Iraq calls on EU to repatriate citizens imprisoned in Syria for ISIS links
Iraqi officials estimate that at least 10,000 western citizens are being held in makeshift prisons in Syria's US-occupied northeast
By News Desk - February 23 2022

Suspected ISIS fighters at a US-run prison in northern Syria. (Photo credit: AFP)

During a speech on 22 February at the first National Conference to Curb Extremism and Terrorism held in Karbala, Iraq, the country’s National Security Advisor called on the EU and other western countries to repatriate nationals affiliated with ISIS that are imprisoned in Syria’s Hasakah governorate.

Qassem Al-Araji, Iraq’s National Security Advisor, estimated that there are 10,000 western citizens that need to be returned to their countries of origin to either be rehabilitated or tried.

“We demand the ambassadors of the European Union countries and those outside the European Union carry out their moral and legal work and receive their citizens who are detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Hasakah prison,” he said.

Al-Araji stressed that the continued presence of the detainees in US-administered prisons and makeshift camps pose a threat to Iraq’s national security, particularly after last month’s violent clashes at Ghweran prison between ISIS and the SDF.

In the days after the violence, the Iraqi National Security Advisor pointed to the SDF’s inability to deal with such a copious amount of ISIS fighters, adding that the international community’s reluctance to repatriate their nationals sparks fears about a potential resurgence of the group.

Despite the urgent call by Baghdad, western nations have for years refused to repatriate citizens suspected of involvement with ISIS. Nations like the US, the UK, Ireland, and Australia have instead chosen to strip the accused of their citizenship.

In 2020, Indonesia sponsored a UN Security Council resolution on the repatriation of ISIS foreign fighters. France and the UK both used their veto power to oppose the resolution, asking for the removal of language about “mandatory” repatriation instead of making it an individual decision for each country.

In the end, the US also vetoed the resolution, once again leaving Iraq and Syria to deal with the problem.

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