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    Belgium urged to bring its children home from Syria

    “Belgium needs to do what it said it would” and bring Belgian children home from camps in north-eastern Syria following the Turkish military intervention, Child Focus Director General Heidi De Pauw said on Tuesday at an event on that issue in the European Parliament.

    “Turkey has decided to aggravate the situation,” she said on the margin of the presentation of a reportage on ‘Europe’s children of ISIS,’ done by Euronews journalist Anelise Borges in camps in Syrian Kurdistan.

    She recalled that the Belgian Government had decided in late 2017 to help repatriate children under the age of 10 years once a request to that effect was formulated by a family member who had remained in Belgium, and to examine on a case-by-case basis the situation of children above the age of 10.

    “All the Belgian children located in the camps – now numbering 69 – are under 10 years of age, most of them under 3 years,” said De Pauw. “Belgium needs to do what it said it would,” she urged.

    The authorities in northeast Syria refuse to allow the children to leave without their mothers. “If it’s a sine qua non condition of the actors on the ground, Belgium needs to take up its responsibilities,” she said.

    For its part, the Government justifies its inability to act by the conjunction of this inability to separate the children from their mothers and its will have the adults tried in the region, a desire shared by other EU countries facing similar issues.

    For Euro-parliamentarian Hilde Vautmas (Open Vld, Renew Europe), who organised the event as co-chair of the European Parliament’s intergroup on children’s rights, there is now no other solution than to create humanitarian corridors and propose to mothers who so wish to give up their children so that they can be taken to Europe while they themselves remain behind.

    Queried about this, Ms. De Pauw said Child Focus did not have a mandate to bring the mothers back. “Children first,” she stressed.

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times