Iraq looking to host refugees from Syria's Al-Hol camp, including families of IS fighters

Iraq looking to host refugees from Syria's Al-Hol camp, including families of IS fighters
An official from Iraq's National Security Council spoke to The New Arab on a condition of anonymity.
2 min read
23 March, 2021
Al-Hol camp, home to relatives of IS fighters, is run by Syrian Kurdish authorities [Getty]
Iraqi authorities are in engaged in fresh efforts to resettle thousands of displaced Iraqis living in a camp in northeast Syria - including the families of Islamic State group fighters - The New Arab’s Arabic-language site has revealed.

An official from Iraq's National Security Council who spoke to The New Arab on condition of anonymity explaining that an Iraqi delegation recently visited Al-Hol camp for a fact-finding mission.

The visit was branded as "necessary" due to the suspected presence inside the camp of former IS fighters, who are wanted by Baghdad.

Al-Hol holds almost 62,000 people, mostly women and children. Most of them are Syrians or Iraqis displaced by the Kurdish-led battle against IS which captured the group's last scrap of territory in March 2019.

The Iraqi official who spoke to The New Arab said that Baghdad is considering establishing camps in uninhabited areas of Iraq, such as the western Anbar desert and the northern Nineveh Plains, for the refugees.

Earlier plans to open camps near urban areas were abandoned due to concerns from local residents. Some politicians raised fears that any ill-thought out resettlement plan would be "ticking time-bomb" for the country's security and stability.

Abbas Sarout, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defence committee, told The New Arab that special focus was being placed on ensuring security at new camps, something which he said Baghdad was working on along with Washington.

He also added that Iraq was receiving international assistance in its plans to rehabilitate of children of slain or imprisoned IS fighters.

On Tuesday, Baghdad's national security adviser warned about the conditions at Al-Hol in a meeting with Washington's envoy to Iraq, Mathew Tueller.

Read also: Syria camp for IS relatives records 31 murders this year

Qasem Al-Araji mentioned that there were 20 Iraqi minors living in the camp, whom he claimed were at risk of radicalisation.

This was inevitable unless "all parties stood side-by-side to solve an issue which threatens the security of Iraq, the region and the entire globe", Al-Araji said, according to an Iraqi statement on the meeting.

Al-Hol has seen a spike in killings thought to be carried out by an IS sleeper cells, including the shooting of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) official.

A Kurdish official told AFP earlier this month that 31 residents were recorded as being killed by remnants of the extremist group since the start of 2020.

Others dispute this and claim some murders are the result of tribal score-settling.

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