Northeastern Syria - Q&A - Excerpts from the daily press briefing (16 September 2019)

Q - Some 10 families of French women and children held in Kurdish camps in Syria lodged a complaint with the Court of Justice against Jean-Yves Le Drian for “failure to provide assistance” in refusing to repatriate them. What is the Quai d’Orsay’s reaction to this complaint, and what is the status of underage French children remaining in Syria? Are there new plans to bring them home?

R - We saw these announcements in the press.

We have already spoken on several occasions about the situation of children in displaced persons camps in northeastern Syria. We are working actively to deal with this situation in the children’s best interest.

The minors being held in northeastern Syria are in camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces. They are therefore not under French control. Let me remind you that France is only bound to guarantee the rights protected in the international conventions it has ratified for individuals under its jurisdiction, that is, those who are located on its soil or in a territory over which it has effective control, or under the control and authority of its representatives.

Nevertheless, we consider it a priority to ensure the return of underage orphans or isolated children who are the most vulnerable. That is the purpose of the actions we are taking. The local situation, which is still one of war, makes it extremely difficult to obtain reliable information to identify and locate these children, which is crucial to bringing them back to France. Seventeen minor orphans or isolated children have, however, been returned to our care since March. We are continuing our efforts to identify other similar situations.

On the humanitarian front, we are also actively mobilized. Since 2017, France has allocated more than €45 million to northeastern Syria to implement humanitarian and stabilization programs. On the humanitarian level, our priority remains responding to the urgent needs of the population. Our response has helped fund NGO programs to provide tents, build sanitary facilities, operate mobile clinics, supply drinking water, and distribute fuel.