Dutch state not obliged to take back Islamic State children - appeals court

FILE PHOTO: Children look through holes in a tent at al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Dutch state is not obliged to actively help repatriate the young children of women who left the Netherlands and joined Islamic State in Syria, an appeals court in The Hague said on Friday, overturning an earlier ruling.

A lower court earlier this month had said the government must actively help repatriate 56 children living in poor conditions in camps in Syria.

All the children have Dutch nationality and are under 12 years old. Most are younger than six.

The government appealed the lower court ruling, citing national security and the risks it said Dutch officials would face by going into the camps to find the women and children.

It said the ruling would negatively impact Dutch foreign policy and international cooperation.

The women and children concerned are living in very poor conditions which could rapidly deteriorate as winter arrives in the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, their lawyer Andre Seebregts told the court.

In total, around 68,000 defeated fighters of Islamic State and their families are being held in the camp, according to the Red Cross. They are under the custody of Syrian Kurdish forces after they took the jihadist group's last enclave.

Government figures show that, as of October, some 55 Islamic State militants still based in northern Syria had travelled there from the Netherlands. There were also at least 90 children with Dutch parents or parents who had lived for a considerable time in the Netherlands.


(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer, Editing by William Maclean and Gareth Jones)