Child services within the Brussels-Wallonia Federation are ready to help the children of Belgian jihadists currently being held in Syria.
The parents are being held there in case the federal government decides to repatriate them. The government is considering this because the situation in the north of Syria has severely deteriorated.
“Services are ready to help these children if the decision is made to repatriate them,” said Youth minister Valérie Glatigny (MR). MP Jean-Charles Luperto mentioned the issue during a Federation Parliament session.
The figures the director of OCAM (Organ for the Coordination of Threat Analysis) Paul Van Tigchelt presented to the Chamber on Wednesday revealed 69 children that have links to Belgium are currently residing in Syria. Most have been detained in camps set up for female Islamic State fighters for months, alongside their mothers.
The General Delegate for Children’s rights Bernard De Vos, his Flemish counterpart and Child Focus are asking the Flemish authorities to bring the children to Belgium. The situation in the region has worsened since the Turkish offensive on the north of Syria.
De Vos says it is worth ensuring these children get an adapted care program instigated by the correct institutions and trained professionals. Otherwise they will remain living in a makeshift camp and could become a long-term threat to Belgium.
The federal government decided to repatriate all children under 10 detained in Iraq and Syria two years ago. They would decide whether to repatriate older children on a case-by-case basis.
However, only six unaccompanied or orphaned children have been repatriated since that decision was made.