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Repatriating children from conflict zones is ‘a humanitarian duty’

In an urgent debate in Strasbourg today, PACE expressed its concern about the situation of the children in Syria and Iraq whose parents, believed to be affiliated to ISIS/Daesh, are citizens of Council of Europe member States.

By adopting a resolution, on the basis of the report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), the Assembly called on member States to actively repatriate, rehabilitate and (re)integrate these children without further delay”, which it considers “a human rights obligation and a humanitarian duty”.

The adopted text states that these children, stranded in squalid camps and detention centres lack food, access to clean water, medical services, and are exposed to risks of violence, exploitation and sexual abuse, as well as radicalisation.

While noting “highly polarised opinions within Council of Europe member States on the question of repatriation of these children”, the parliamentarians recalled that these were not responsible for the actions of their parents nor for the circumstances in which they find themselves. Moreover, as all member States have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, they “have undertaken to ensure that children affected by armed conflict benefit from protection and care”.

The Assembly also recommended that the Committee of Ministers and the European Union ensure that action against terrorism, when dealing with child-related issues, is focused on the best interest of the child and guarantees adequate protection of children’s rights.