Canada repatriating women and children from Syria

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Canada repatriating women and children from Syria

Canada is repatriating a group of women and children who have been held at least three years in Islamic State camps in Syria, their lawyer says.

The federal government agreed in January to bring back six women and their 13 children, but pushed back on repatriating four imprisoned men.

Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said on Wednesday the women and children were “en route” to Canada.

Ottawa has yet to confirm they are in transit.

“I’ve talked to their various family members here in Canada and they are absolutely delighted that some three-and-a-half years after we started this process of trying to bring the women and children home, their loved ones are on their way,” Mr Greenspon said.

He declined to comment on when or where they would arrive in Canada.

It is unclear whether one woman, from the Canadian province of Quebec, and her six children are among the group being repatriated, though Mr Greenspon told the BBC that his ” information is that she is not on the flight”.

Canada offered to repatriate her children without her, as officials are still conducting a security and risk assessment for the mother, said Mr Greenspon, who represents the family.

He said Canada’s department of foreign affairs, Global Affairs, told the mother last week that she could either send her children home without her or keep them in the camp with her.

“Her choice was that she wants the children to be repatriated and her to be with them at the same time,” he said.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Canada was breaking government policy by asking a mother to send her children back to Canada without her, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was “engaged with all of our responsibilities”.

“The situation in north-eastern Syria is incredibly volatile,” he said. “Canada is watching very, very closely.”

The repatriation could be the biggest so far for Canada after the so-called Islamic State caliphate was destroyed in 2019.

Last October, the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, arrested a 27-year-old Canadian woman returning from Syria and charged her with terrorism-related offences. Another woman, who returned to Canada after marrying an Islamic State fighter, was also arrested and released on bail while officials seek a peace bond in her case.

It is unclear if any of the women being returned this week may face charges. The BBC has reached out to the RCMP for comment.

A federal court has also ordered the Canadian government to repatriate four men who have not been formally charged with crimes but are imprisoned in camps in Syria. British-Canadian dual national, Jack Letts, whose British citizenship was revoked, is one of the four.