Macron says France 'acting' on repatriating French children in Syria camps
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that France was working to repatriate French children detained in camps in northeast Syria back to France.
Paris has taken back just a fraction of French children living at the camps run by northeast Syria's Kurdish-led authorities, which hold thousands of people suspected of ties to the Islamic State group (IS).
"France is acting on those cases," Macron told France Info during a live question and answer session held in the run-up to the second round of the French presidential election.
"I won't give you further details because I don't want to politicise this issue, and because I want the right security conditions for these operations," the president said.
France does not repatriate IS-linked adults from northeast Syria, a stance condemned by human rights activists and lawyers who say they should also be brought back and tried for any suspected crimes in French courts.
Macron said parents living with their children in the camps were slowing down the process of repatriations.
"Unfortunately for these children, often the parents who are there do not want them to leave, even if their family in France wants them to."
That comment sparked anger among repatriation activists.
"Giving mothers the 'choice' of separation from their kids is not a choice, but an attack on the fundamental principle of the best interests of the child, which governs the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Stop these heinous lies!" researcher and activist Philomène Franssen said on Twitter.
French authorities have defended the speed of repatriations, saying it is taking children back on a "case-by-case" basis that prioritises the most vulnerable children.
His opponent in the election, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, has previously said that France should be cautious with repatriating children as some have been radicalised.
"Some children, at ten years old, have already been trained to cut the throats of human beings," Le Pen claimed.
Adults should be tried Syria, Le Pen said, a "sovereign country perfect capable of trying the people who have committed abuses".
Le Pen said earlier this week that France should normalise its diplomatic ties with Syria.