Berlin: Germany on Wednesday said it had resolved “almost all known cases” of its citizens stuck in Syrian jihadist camps, after announcing the repatriation of 12 people.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock released a statement announcing that seven children and four women returned to Germany on Wednesday night from the Roj camp in northeastern Syria.
A teenage boy who had been taken to Syria aged 11 was also part of the group.
“I am relieved that this action has allowed us to close almost all the known cases,” Baerbock said.
“I am especially relieved because the children are not responsible for their parents’ fateful choices,” she added, deeming it impossible to leave them “without a future in the camps of northeast Syria”.
The German foreign ministry said the women and the teenager will have to “answer for their acts” and were detained upon their arrival in the country.
It added that there was only one instance where an agreed repatriation had not been carried out yet, and that the mothers did not wish to return in the other cases.
The ministry said six operations have led to 76 minors and 26 women being repatriated from northeastern Syria to Germany to date.
The return of relatives of captured or killed jihadist fighters from Syria and Iraq has been a thorny issue for European countries since the fall of the Islamic State group’s so-called “caliphate” in 2019.
The debate on welcoming back citizens from jihadist prison camps has been particularly heated in France.
The government previously opted for returns on a case-by-case basis, a policy denounced by the prisoners’ relatives, before carrying out a first major repatriation earlier this year.
French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti on Wednesday said a total of 77 minors had been repatriated in seven operations from the Rojava camp in northeastern Syria.
Another six had returned to France from Iraq, he added.
Around 100 women and nearly 250 children are among the French citizens still in Syrian camps.