Thousands of individuals are still stranded in camps in north-eastern Syria and Iraq in dire conditions, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are awaiting repatriation. Most of them are women and children and some of them may have links to United Nations-listed terrorist groups. Some of the adults are victims and some are perpetrators. Some who may have committed crimes may have done so under duress or after being trafficked, coerced or while they were children. Accordingly, all those to be repatriated must be assessed individually.
The United Nations calls for the assessment, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters and their family members, in accordance with international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law. All children should first and foremost be considered victims. Repatriation is only one step in a larger process. Several Central Asian States including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were among the first countries to repatriate their nationals fulfilling their international obligations. Their experiences have generated valuable lessons, which may be useful to other Member States that have already repatriated, or are committed to repatriating, their nationals, or to address the situation of individuals who have returned on their own.
The United Nations Office of Countering Terrorism and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy have produced an animated video entitled “Returning home, rebuilding lives”. The story in the video is based on real events and its main protagonists – women and children – were able to return home thanks to the considerable efforts of their governments. Vladimir Voronkov, Under Secretary-General of the UNOCT, said during the UN side event held on 25 September, that while watching the video, everyone should ask ourselves: What would have happened to these people if they had not been repatriated? “Would the children have been brainwashed and forced to join the ranks of terrorist groups? Would they have been transformed from victims to perpetrators? Would they have developed anger and hatred towards their own countries that stigmatized them by refusing to take them back and let them fend for themselves for no fault of their own?” said Mr Voronkov.
The animated video “Returning home, rebuilding lives” features the Central Asian experience in repatriating their experience and the United Nations support available to Member states that have repatriated or are committing to repatriating their nationals from camps in northeaster Syria and Iraq.
You can watch the animated film here: https://youtu.be/FLDgmxc6CYQ