Commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) General Michael “Erik” Kurilla embarked on a visit to displaced persons camps in the Kurdish-led autonomous North and East Syria on Monday.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, CENTCOM said that General Kurilla’s trip came as part of a larger, coordinated multinational endeavour aimed at repatriating camp residents, thereby bolstering security and stability in the region.
The visit included direct interactions with Al-Hol and Roj camp administrators, and representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and residents as the general observed the ongoing repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration efforts to facilitate the return of individuals to their countries of origin.
The SDF took control of the area after the Islamic State (ISIS) was cleared from the region at the end of 2017. But the camp’s squalid conditions, the presence of foreign jihadists and ISIS fighters’ family members, and the susceptibility of many young residents to extremist rhetoric are thought to have made it a hotbed for the extremist jihadist group.
Al Hol (also known as al-Hawl) and Roj camps in in the district of al-Hasakah in North East Syria are home to over 50,000 people, more than 80 percent of whom are women and children, mainly children and wives of ISIS fighters who are detained in nearby prisons. While some countries have started repatriating their citizens, the camp remains overcrowded.
CENTCOM and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) have long called on countries with citizens in the camps to repatriate them and warned of the risk of an ISIS resurgence due to the situation in the camps.
United Nations recently condemned the mass detention of tens of thousands of women and children in northeast Syria as a violation of international law and called on governments to repatriate their nationals.
The AANES further urges the international community to cooperate and provide support to facilitate the initiation of legal proceedings to prosecute members of the ISIS in order to achieve justice at both local and international levels.