Foreign nationals suspected of Isis links ‘not wanted’ in Syrian camps
The Guardian: An estimated 7,000 women and children from more than 40 nations, including the US, UK, Australia and Europe, are living in tense and chaotic conditions in camps in north-eastern Syria, where they are “not wanted” due to their supposed affiliation with Islamic State.
Among them are hundreds of unaccompanied or separated children, some just babies as young as five months, according to aid groups and other sources.
To ease potential tension among the many groups, the foreign nationals – hailing from countries as varied as Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Somalia and Trinidad and Tobago – have been segregated into separate annexes in two of the three camps, which include Ain Issa, al-Roj and the severely overcrowded al-Hawl centre, where Shamima Begum’s baby son died just under a fortnight ago.
“The message that they are not wanted is growing stronger,” said Unicef’s regional director for the Middle East, Geert Cappelaere. “They are not wanted in the camp. They are often not wanted in their countries of origin, still waiting for third countries to come forward and offer resettlement.”
Up to 5,000 children in the camps are believed to be foreign nationals, according to Save the Children’s Syria response director Sonia Khush, a figure that does not include Iraqi children. But the exact numbers are difficult to assess, said Khush, due to the sheer number of people arriving every day.
Keeping track of unaccompanied children is extremely difficult, as they are often passed from family to family.
Some 58,000 newcomers – 90% of them women and children – have arrived in the past three months alone, many of them from the last Isis enclave of Baghuz, said Ghassan Mediah, who heads the Unicef field office near al-Hawl, close to the Iraq border. There have been 123 deaths, including 108 children, on the way to al-Hawl camp or soon after arriving, according to the International Rescue Committee.
The number of arrivals has inundated aid agencies, which are struggling to provide adequate housing, food and medical and educational support. Hygiene standards are so poor the camp administration is now worried about an outbreak of dysentery, and the overcrowded conditions have led to fires caused by cooking and heating stoves, which have killed at least two children in the last week.