France on Tuesday repatriated 10 women and 25 children held in a suspected jihadist prison in northeastern Syria, the French foreign ministry said, the fourth such operation in a year.
Minors will be handed over to childcare facilities and adults will be handed over to the relevant judicial authorities, the ministry said in a statement.
The French women volunteered to travel to territories in Syria and Iraq then controlled by Islamic State jihadists.
They were captured when the jihadist group was driven out of its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2019.
The repatriation of families of captured or killed jihadists has been a thorny issue for European countries, especially jihadist France.
In France, any adult who travels to the Iraq-Syria region and stays there is subject to legal action.
Just a year ago, France ended its “case-by-case” deportation practice, which had drawn condemnation from international bodies.
A total of 16 women and 35 children were brought back to France in the first repatriation a year ago, followed by another 15 women and 40 children in October.
In January, the French foreign ministry announced the repatriation of 15 women and 32 children, days after it was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, which said France violated the UN Convention against Torture by refusing to return Syrian women and minors ” and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
“France thanks the regional authorities in northeastern Syria for their cooperation that made this operation possible,” the French foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Until the summer of 2022, France has opted for targeted repatriation, that is, returning orphans or minors whose mothers have agreed to renounce their parental rights.
Under this policy, Paris has only repatriated about 30 presumed orphans, with the last repatriation in early 2021.