Exactly a year ago, we returned from a second visit to Kurdish refugee and detention camps in Northeast Syria. The visit was a humanitarian mission aimed at preventing even more children and mothers from dying from war wounds, malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, diarrhea and other easily preventable diseases. Living conditions in the camps were extremely inhumane and harsh, with a serious lack of food, drinking water, tents, hygiene and medical care and an increasing threat of radicalization. The consequences of these inhuman living conditions and increasing IS radicalization were clearly reflected in the medical and psychological condition of the 41 Belgian children and their 14 mothers that we examined.
One year later, more than 7,000 children, the majority of whom are under 6 years old, still live in the same inhuman conditions. According to recent figures from the Syrian Observatory, 103 people have died in the Al Hol detention camp (Al Hasakah) since the beginning of 2020, 62 of them children. This brings the number of deaths since January 2019 to 588, of which 488 children from different countries, such as Portugal, Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, China, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia, India … Again the children were confronted with war violence , bombing and shelling in an increasingly instable region, where the corona crisis is imminent and where desert summer has begun. For the third time, the children will have to survive temperatures of up to 50°C in tents, because the international and mainly European community does not assume its responsibility for the repatriation and trial of its citizens.
This report provides an overview of developments in the legal and political field of the past year. In both areas we notice a shift in decisions and approaches, with children’s and human rights increasingly making way for convulsive and persistent efforts to avoid the return of
mothers, at the expense of the children.