Belgium is repatriating the orphaned children of Islamic State fighters from Syria after they were cleared by federal intelligence and counter-terrorism services, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Thursday.
“We will not let these children die,” De Croo told VRT-Radio, referring to the six children, who he said were all born in Belgium.
“There are six children who no longer have parents,” De Croo said, adding that children should not be blamed for their parents’ “unjustifiable” choices.
The orphan’s repatriation is part of an agreement signed with Kurdish authorities —who control several refugee camps in the war-torn country— to fly orphaned children back into Belgium.
Two of the orphans are younger than ten while the other four are older, and their repatriation was approved after an extensive analysis was jointly carried out by the Intelligence Services and the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM), according to the minister.
De Croo said that each child will receive “appropriate support” upon their arrival in the country and that, at this stage, no other similar operations are being planned.
Foreign secretary for migration and foreign affairs, Theo Francken, condemned the decision to repatriate the children, arguing that it could open the door for their parents’ return to the country, and raising questions about whether the children had actually been orphaned.
News of the repatriations come after 14 orphans were flown into Paris from Syria on Monday, in a group which included two Dutch-Belgian orphans who were handed over to authorities in the Netherlands.