As U.S.-backed Kurdish forces make a final push against ISIS in Syria, the number of ISIS prisoners — including fighters and their families — detained in Syria grows too.
And as the number of Canadians detained in Syria grows, so does the urgency with which Canadians debate whether or not the government should be working to repatriate them.
In an attempt to soften the affect of its exit on Kurdish troops still fighting ISIS and managing those prisoners, the U.S. is urging allied countries to repatriate their prisoners.
But while other countries have begun to bring their prisoners home — France has collected 80 of 130 citizens — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he won’t put Canadian diplomatic officers or consular officials at risk to retrieve the Canadian prisoners from Syria, where Canada currently has no diplomatic presence.
While Canada cannot strip Canadians of their citizenship unless they are found to have obtained it fraudulently — meaning Canada can’t turn away a Canadian ISIS fighter or their spouse at the border — Goodale has said that bringing ISIS fighters or their families home is not a priority.
Of the approximately 5,000 Islamic State detainees currently being held in Syria, CBC News reports that 32 are Canadian. Among those 32 are women who left Canada to live in Syria with their ISIS-fighter spouses, and children below the age of five.
One such woman, identified by the first name Kimberly, told CTV she was lured to join the terrorist group in Syria by her first husband three years ago, but that she quickly became disillusioned once there. She described how it was dangerous to talk about going home.
Another Canadian woman, identified as Amy, told CTV the husband she followed to Syria died there and she wants to come home. She wants her two young Canadian-born sons and unborn child to grow up in a safe environment and have access to a proper education.
In an interview with CBC, UN official Agnes Callamard said Canada has a duty to bring its foreign fighters and their families home and have them face justice here. Whatever crimes the women might be suspected of committing, Callamard told CBC, they can’t expect a fair trial without being brought back to Canada first.
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