Iraq, Britain discuss dismantling notorious al-Hol camp in north-east Syria

Iraq, Britain discuss dismantling notorious al-Hol camp in north-east Syria
Iraq and Britain agreed on the need to dismantle the notorious Al-Hol MP amid criticism of the UK's policy of not repatriating citizens.
2 min read
07 August, 2023
The Al-Hol camp is notorious for its overcrowding and violence [Getty]

Newly appointed UK ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hitchen and Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassim Al-Araji met on Sunday in Baghdad to discuss the possible dismantling of the notorious al-Hol camp in north-east Syria.

The two officials agreed that the camp, which is run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and houses families of Islamic State militants, was producing hatred and extremism.

The camp is plagued by frequent violence amid a lack of medical care and adequate nutrition for its residents. Dozens of children have died there.

Hitchan and Al-Araji said that countries should repatriate their nationals from the camp.

In a statement seen by Iraqi News Agency, the two affirmed "the strengthening of coordination between Iraq and the United Kingdom in the field of combating terrorism," as well as discussing the combatting of drugs, and increasing cooperation on cybersecurity.

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Al-Hol camp currently holds around 55,000 displaced people, including at least 27,000 Iraqis and thousands of people with alleged ties to the Islamic State group, many of whom are foreign nationals.

The debate over repatriating citizens, and the situation of detainees in north-east Syria, has recently received fresh attention following a letter from Conservative MP David Davis to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

In the letter, Davis criticised the detention of minors in north-east Syria, saying it was "arbitrary and constitutes collective punishment – a clear breach of international law, funded in part by the British taxpayer."

"Condemning British families to indefinite detention without trial is inconsistent with British values and support for the rule of law. Repatriating British families is the only sensible choice for UK and global security," Davis said.

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According to the UN, the UK provides up to £20 million to fund detention camps across north-east Syria, which is currently controlled by the SDF and its affiliated Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The letter, and meeting, come as other Western countries have repatriated citizens in north-east Syria to their home countries. These include France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Canada and the Netherlands.

The New Arab reached out to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the Iraqi Embassy in London for comment, but received no response by the time of publication.