The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched a census of Moroccan women and children in the “Al-Hol” and “Roj” camps in Syria, a procedure which could herald the possibility of a imminent repatriation to the Kingdom in the coming days, as has been done in several countries.
The news did not fall on deaf ears and was well received in circles of human rights activism in Morocco. It has also given hope to the women and children of the camps themselves, who hope to return home and end this crucial stage they have had to undergo away from home.
According to what MoroccoLatestNews learned, Moroccan women were allowed to fill out information forms on their situation as well as that of their relatives in Morocco, (telephone numbers, address…) in order to be able to contact them.
Abdelaziz El-Baqali, representative of the National Coordination of Moroccan Families of Prisoners and Detainees in Syria and Iraq, considered that this census is “a good omen for settling the matter”.
“Women and children no longer have the energy to wait… Everyone wants to be in the first batch of returns. Official data from the UN institution indicates that two hundred and eighty Moroccans, as well as more than three hundred and ninety children, are in hotbeds of tension in the Middle East. Authorities say Morocco is trying to intervene, he said.
For their part, experts have called for the repatriation of all detainees in these areas. “We urge the 57 states whose nationals are detained there to repatriate them without delay,” they said in a statement in February, worrying about the deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in these camps, which of 64,000 people, mainly women and children. They had come to find refuge there in 2019 after the defeat of the “Islamic State” group and the loss of the last jihadist strongholds. Of the 64,000 people accommodated in al-Hol, the largest camp in northeastern Syria, more than 80% are women and children.
UNICEF estimates the number of foreign children in Syria at around 28,000 from more than 57 different countries, including nearly 20,000 from Iraq, who are still stranded in northeastern Syria, most of them in IDP camps. The same organization claims that “over 80% of these children are under 12, while half are under five. At least 250 boys, some of whom are only nine years old, are in detention… The real numbers are probably much higher.
More broadly, experts believe that the continued detention “for unclear reasons” of women and children in camps is a matter of grave concern and undermines the advancement of accountability, truth and justice. . Especially since on the spot, reports show an increase in violence in the camps since the beginning of the year, which reinforces the appeals of the experts for “urgent action”. Thousands of people detained in the camps are said to be exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse and deprivation in conditions and treatment that may well amount to torture or other degrading treatment.
According to information dated June 2020, among the 57 countries, almost half are European countries, including Germany, Belgium, France, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or Turkey. On the African continent are Algeria, South Africa, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. Nearly twenty countries are also arrested in Asia, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Iran, Lebanon and Palestine.