A US delegation visited the Al-Hawl camp in North East Syria in October to discuss security conditions at the camp and the possibility of deporting foreign elements, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The Syrian Democratic Forces, which controls al-Hawl, has been working this year to root out a strong Islamic State (ISIS) presence from among the camp’s 60,000 residents, more than 80 percent of whom are women and children.
The SDF took control of the area after 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.
The camp houses an estimated 25,000 Iraqi women and children, as well as around 2,000 women and 8,000 minors from 57 other countries.
The delegation, including US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Ethan Goldrich and a team specialised in civil, humanitarian and terrorism affairs, met with the Executive Council of the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES), lawmakers, and the head of the Executive Board of the Syrian Democratic Council.
In September, US Central Command General Michael “Erik” Kurilla urged states to repatriate residents back to their origin countries and rehabilitate them if needed.
“With approximately 80 births in the camp each month, this place is a literal breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS,” said Kurilla, stating that approximately 70 percent of the population was under 12 years old.