The Belgian state is not obliged to repatriate the children of Flemish Syria fighters, the Brussels court of appeal has ruled.
The ruling also overturned an order issued by a lower court for the government to pay damages of €5,000 per child for every day the repatriation was delayed.
The initial ruling dates back to December 2019, and concerns ten children then aged between six months and seven years, at the time staying in a refugee camp in northern Syria. The children were the offspring of men and women who had gone to take part in the fighting in Syria.
The court ordered the government to make arrangements to bring the children back to Belgium, and provide all the necessary identity and travel documents. Each day of delay would lead to the payment of €5,000 per child.
However the government appealed, but in the meantime lawyers for the four fighters who had brought the case sent bailiffs to the offices of the ministers of justice and foreign affairs looking for payment.
Since the initial ruling, one of the women involved made her own arrangements to bring back her four children, leaving six behind.
One of the arguments presented by the government was that the parentage of the children could not be verified. The children were all born in Syria, and there is no evidence to show that their parents are Belgian at all, let alone the plaintiffs.
Lawyers for the parents said they would study the ruling carefully before deciding how to proceed. Their remaining option would be to bring the case to the Council of State, which has jurisdiction in matters of government decisions.