Not repatriating IS children already costs Belgium €100,000: what’s happening?
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    Not repatriating IS children already costs Belgium €100,000: what’s happening?

    The government has received its first bill of €100,000, via a bailiff, on Tuesday. Credit: Belga

    The Belgian State will already have to pay €100,000 to ten children of IS terrorists, as they did not provide them with assistance to get back to Belgium.

    The government has received its first bill, via a bailiff, on Tuesday. However, the amount can go up very quickly, as the State has to pay €5,000 per child and per day that it does not help them, and the Department of Foreign Affairs is keeping silent about the case.

    Why does Belgium have to pay?

    On 11 December 2019, a Brussels court ordered Belgium to repatriate the ten children of four IS terrorists from Antwerp, who were held in the Al Hol camp in Syria.

    The State had to provide the children, but not their parents, with consular assistance and the necessary administrative, travel and identity documents, within six weeks, or it had to pay a fine. However, on Sunday 26 January, those six weeks were up. As long as Belgium does not provide assistance, the penalty will go up by €50,000 a day.

    Where will the money go?

    “The money will be put in a blocked account, in the name of the children,” said Mohamed Ozdemir and Abderrahim Lahlali, the lawyers of the four IS terrorists, reports Het Nieuwsblad. The money will be divided into ten different accounts, and stay there until the children are 21 years old.

    “However, our clients are not after that money,” said Ozdemir. “We just want to increase the pressure to urge the government to take action,” he added.

    What will Belgium do now?

    “We do not think it is appropriate to communicate about the case now,” said a spokesperson for the FPS Foreign Affairs, explaining why the Belgian government has been silent about the case for weeks.

    Additionally, the FPS does not want to communicate about whether or not it will follow the court’s ruling and pay the penalty. It is implied that the FPS will take the case to court again, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

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    However, Belgium is doing everything in its power to deliver the documents, according to the Prime Minister’s spokesperson. “All diplomatic contacts are activated to organise missions in the interest of the children and in accordance with international and fundamental security rules in areas of armed conflict,” he said, reports De Morgen.

    In principle, Belgium could appeal, but it is not very likely, according to Lahlali. Philippe Goffin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, had previously said that the country would not lodge an appeal, and confirmed it in a letter to the lawyers. In the meantime, the appeal period has been exceeded.

    However, as the lawyers of the families did lodge an appeal to force the State to also repatriate the parents, the State could lodge another appeal. If the State would then win that appeal, the money would have to be refunded.

    Additionally, the Kurds guarding the camps in Syria have stated that the children are not allowed to be separated from their parents, but the Brussels court has only obliged Belgium to make efforts to return the ten children, not their mothers, complicating the matters even further.

    What happens if the children are brought back to Belgium?

    In principle, the money that the Belgian State had to pay until the day the children are helped, would remain in their accounts. “But if the children were to return within a reasonable amount of time, we would advise our clients to repay the money,” Lahlali said.

    “On the other hand, should anything happen to them in Syria, we will not hesitate to file a criminal complaint against the state,” he added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times