Children of French fighters blocked in Syria and Iraq at risk of statelessness

9 Sep 2019 / Prevention and reduction / France

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), around 29,000 children of foreign fighters are blocked in Syria, most of whom are under 12 years old. Among them, 20,000 come from Iraq and 9,000 come from 50 different countries, including France. Moreover, 1,900 children of foreign fighters are living in Iraq. Among these minors, more than 200 children of French Daesh fighters are living in Syria or Iraq.

For now, the French Government is dealing with the issue on a case-by-case basis, and refuses to repatriate the adults, including mothers who refuse to be separated from their children. In mid-June, the French Government repatriated 15 orphans of French fighters and two children whose mothers allowed them to travel to France. 

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called on States to provide a nationality to children born to their nationals in conflict zones. Reminding them of the human rights violations caused by statelessness, especially for children to access education, healthcare and dignity, she noted that four cases have been brought to the attention of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee against Torture by French grandparents of children currently being held in Syria and Iraq.

In May 2019, France’s human rights defender, Jacques Toubon, received several requests from family members of children being held in Syria and Iraq. In his recommendations, he reminded States of the obligations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to register the birth of every child, and that every child has the right to a name and to acquire a nationality. He reiterates the significant concerns of the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the number of unregistered children who do not have access to their birth certificate because of the armed conflict. Many more children have been born to French mothers in Syria or in refugee camps in the region, without any administrative registration of their births or issuance of birth certificates, threatening their identity and rights. According to French law, if at least one parent is French, the child is French, regardless of whether he/she was born in France.

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