Belgium will comply with ruling to repatriate ten children of IS members

Belgium will comply with ruling to repatriate ten children of IS members
Ten children, currently in the refugee camp of Al-Hol in northeastern Syria, are concerned by the ruling. © Belga

The Belgian government will not appeal a ruling to repatriate ten children of Belgian jihadist fighters from Syria, departing from previous statements that it would likely appeal the order.

Defence Minister Philippe Goffin said in parliament that the government would comply and provide consular assistance and travel documents to the group of ten children currently in the Al-Hol camp Syria with their mothers, Bruzz reports.

Following the ruling, Justice Minister Koen Keens said that Belgium was “in the habit” of appealing such court orders, noting that the ruling was in line with official policies and that “judicial coercion” was not necessary.

The government has previously stated that it will repatriate all children with a link to Belgium under the age of ten from camps and conflict zones in Syria and the broader region — but has repeatedly refused to repatriate adults.

Despite years of calls from the humanitarian and civil spheres to bring back children who still remain in refugee and detention camps, namely in Syria and Iraq, the government has only actively organised the repatriation of six orphaned children, flown into Belgium last summer.

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The decision to carry out the order comes just ahead of a six-week delay period established by the judge, after which the government would have been forced to pay a fine of €5,000 per child and per day of delay.

The ruling concerns the children of four Belgian women who travelled to Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group, and who have been identified in media as Nadia Baghouri, Adel Mezroui, Jessie Van Eetvelde et Sabah Hammani.

In the ruling, the judge did not include the four women, judging they were not entitled to consular assistance after travelling to “conflict territory,” on their own initiative.

Goffin said that the government was now studying how to carry out the decision, for which the biggest obstacle could now be the mothers’ willingness to let their children return to Belgium without them.

In his address, the defence minister did not mention two separate rulings issued last year by the courts, ordering the government to repatriate two women and their children.

One of the women concerned by these rulings has already lost two children in Syria, a set of twins.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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