6 Canadian children stuck in Syrian detention camp have now been returned to Canada

Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp in Syria. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)
Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp in Syria. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)

Six Canadian children have been repatriated from Syria according to a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

"The Government of Canada has taken extraordinary measures to repatriate six Canadian children from northeastern Syria," the statement said.

"The focus is now on protecting the children's privacy and ensuring they receive the support and care needed to begin a new life here in Canada."

A separate statement issued by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the children were brought back from Syria as part of an operation that saw the U.S. repatriate 11 of its citizens, as well as Canadian, Dutch and Finnish nationals.

Canadian lawyer Lawrence Greenspon confirmed to CBC News that Global Affairs Canada (GAC) informed him the children were transferred to Canada overnight, and that all six have now arrived in Montreal.

Greenspon said that a family has been identified that will care for the six children and the Clinique de Polarization was also present for their arrival.

Greenspon told CBC News in June that the children's mother was not being permitted to return to Canada after failing to pass a security screening assessment.

Greenspon said the government told him it decided not to repatriate the woman because she "adheres to extreme ideological beliefs" and could pose a risk to the public. He said the government provided no details on how they arrived at that decision.

"They don't indicate the depth of their assessment or what they took into account or how they came to this conclusion," he said.

Provincial authorities to help with settlement

Blinken's statement detailing the repatriation effort said there are approximately 30,000 people from more than 60 countries, mostly children, that remain in al-Hol and Roj displaced persons camps in Syria.

"As governments undertake repatriation of their nationals, we urge thoughtfulness and flexibility to ensure that to the maximum extent possible family units remain intact," the Blinken statement said.

GAC said that it is working with provincial authorities, NGOs, "child welfare services and local shelters, to facilitate reception, housing and other support services," for the children.

"We also thank the United States for its assistance in repatriating Canadians and for its valuable support throughout this process," the GAC statement said.

Alex Neve, a Canadian human rights lawyer and former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, responded to the news on the social media platform X, saying it is "welcome news" but is also a "glaringly missed opportunity to ensure that all Canadians and their mothers are repatriated" from northeast Syria.

Alexandra Bain of the group Families Against Violent Extremism, who has been advocating for the return of the children and their mother along with all Canadians being held in northeast Syria, welcomed the news.

"We are delighted that these innocent children have finally been returned to Canada, and we will continue to advocate for the immediate return of their mother," she told CBC News in an email.

Bain said her group will continue to advocate for the return of the "remaining Canadian children (those with non-Canadian mothers) being held in the camps, and the handful of Canadian men who remain in prisons."

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters Tuesday that because the children already suffered with the challenges of being held in a detention camp, she will not comment further on the case.

"These children have gone through an extremely difficult situation," Joly said. "I was extremely preoccupied by the children that are in camps in northeast Syria."