The Canadian government is set to repatriate more than two dozen women and children from northeastern Syrian detention camps, including 10 children who are at risk of being separated from their mothers due to a “cruel” choice. The mothers have been given the option of either giving up their children or keeping them in “inhumane” conditions. Advocates are lobbying to keep the children and their mothers together, as bringing the children to Canada without their mothers may result in the children being placed in provincial care. The conditions in the camps are described as “inhumane,” with detainees living in constant fear of violence and having inadequate access to medical care. Lawyers and organizations helping the women have largely been left in the dark as to the government’s intentions.
The repatriation is expected to take place as soon as this week, with the 29 women and children landing in western provinces, Ontario, and Quebec. While some of the mothers may have had ties to ISIS, advocates say they should be looked at as victims of a cult and that they are denouncing extremism.
Lawyer Yoav Niv questions the legality of the women’s placement in the camps and calls their detention “arbitrary and unlawful.” He says that detention based solely on family ties amounts to collective punishment, a war crime. Both Niv and Faraz Bawa, a lawyer representing one of the women, say there are ways to address security concerns should Canada identify them.
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