There are three Danish children left in the Syrian detention camps who need to return home to Denmark. Other than that there is at least one child with Danish citizenship, who also has the right to citizenship in another country, and nine children with Danish citizenship or ties to Denmark who reside in the neighboring area. The children are between four and nine years old. They have survived bomb attacks and shootings and been witnesses to the killings of their nearest family members.
Two of the children in the al-Roj detention camp received an offer to come home to Denmark in March 2023, but so far the mother has chosen to stay in Syria with her children. She cannot comprehend being separated from her children, once she is imprisoned in Denmark. The children have previously been separated from her for four months in the Syrian detention camps and are still very affected by the separation. RTC works towards getting an agreement on alternative imprisonment for her and her children.
The third child to return home to Denmark is the only Danish boy left in the detention camps who still needs to receive an offer of repatriation with his mother. He is deeply malnourished, has shrapnel in his body, and suffers from anxiety attacks, PTSD, and other disorders.
HOW DID THE CHILDREN END UP IN CAPTIVITY AND ON THE RUN? The children's parents allegedly traveled to Syria to live in the so-called caliphate. With the fall of the caliphate, women, men, and children were imprisoned in Kurdish-controlled detention camps and prisons or fled to neighboring cities or countries.
About 10.000 non-Iraqi foreign citizens from 60 different countries are detained in Kurdish-controlled camps in northeastern Syria. The majority of them are children under 12 years old.
According to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service and the Danish Ministry of Justice, about 30 children with ties to Denmark have been detained in the Syrian detention camps al-Roj and al-Hol.
Overall, 50 children of Danish citizens or parents who have previously had residence permits in Denmark have resided in the detention camps as well as the neighboring countries and areas in Syria after the Islamic State was defeated.
12 adult Danish citizens have been imprisoned primarily in the Kurdish-controlled area in Syria, but also in the surrounding countries.
DANES IN MILITANT GROUPS ABROAD
According to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, at least 159 Danes have left Denmark to live with militant Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq. Almost half have left the area again. It is estimated that about a third have been killed.
18 people in Denmark have been convicted for endorsing the Islamic State or for having tried to join the caliphate.
There are no examples in Denmark of returned foreign fighters who have been involved in terror after they came home, but we have seen examples in other European countries. The majority of the acts of terror in the Global North in the past years have been committed by people who have not been in areas of conflict.
In 2019, Denmark repatriated an orphan baby and a deeply injured 13-year-old boy. Besides that, the Danish government worked with the French authorities to evacuate two orphan children with Danish-French backgrounds from Syria to France.
In October 2021, 14 Danish children and their mothers have been repatriated to Denmark. The mothers were immediately arrested and put into custody by the Danish police.
In the spring of 2023, it was decided that four more Danish children and their two mothers could come home to Denmark. Two of the children landed with their mother in Denmark in June 2023. The mother is in custody and the children live with their family.
The other children who have come home live with their family members in Denmark. RTC continues to have contact with the children and their families.
The Moderates, the Red-Green Alliance, the Green Left, the Danish Social Liberal Party, and The Alternative believe that the children should be brought back to Denmark – even if it means that the mothers have to come along with them. Many of the right-wing parties and the Social democrats only want to take back the children, if the mothers agree to be separated from them.
The dispute between the governing parties caused a political compromise in the spring of 2023, so one of the two last families where one of the mothers had her citizenship removed got to come home from the detention camps. The government only wants to take home the last Danish boy, if his mother agrees to be separated from him, even though childcare experts have concluded that it would be harmful to the boy and it is doubtful if it is even possible legally.
Until May 2021, the former Social democratic government neither wanted to bring back the Danish children or their mothers from the detention camps, but after consistent pressure, the government put down a task force to determine whether or not the children could be repatriated without their mothers. The task force deemed it impossible, and the government therefore decided in May 2021 to repatriate 14 of the Danish children and their three mothers who held Danish citizenship. One of the mothers has subsequently had her Danish citizenship removed. The other two mothers are ethnically Danish.
The autonomy of the Kurds has repeatedly advised that countries outside Syria and Iraq repatriate their citizens. They will not allow minors to return home without their mothers unless the child is an orphan.
The US, the UN, and a long list of humanitarian organizations also encourage all countries to retrieve their citizens from the camps. The conditions in the detention camps have been criticized by multiple actors and called "hell on earth". There is a general shortage of food and drinking water in the camps and the child mortality rate is extremely high.
There are almost daily attacks from the Islamic State and Turkey in the area around the detention camps and inside the camps, there are riots, killings, and tent fires. The Islamic State was in the winter of 2022 behind a bloody liberation action against a nearby prison for male ISIS sympathizers. It cost the lives of hundreds of people and about 400 inmates with ties to Islamic State fled and are now again on free foot in the area.
According to experts and intelligence services, there is a constant danger for the children being abducted by the Islamic State.
This site was last updated November 13th, 2023