UNICEF urges repatriation of all children in Syria’s Al-Hol camp following deadly fire

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday urged all countries to repatriate and safely reintegrate their young nationals being held at Syria’s largest camp for refugees and internally-displaced, following a deadly weekend fire at Al-Hol camp which saw at least three children die, and another 15 injured. In and around the notorious camp which has housed many families of alleged extremist fighters since the defeat of ISIL in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, “there are more than 22,000 foreign children of at least 60 nationalities who languish in camps and prisons, in addition to many thousands of Syrian children”, said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ted Chaiban.

According to the UN, a fire broke out on Saturday evening during a family gathering among displaced Syrian camp residents. One woman reportedly died along with the three children, and at least 11 adults were injured. At least 20 people overall remain in hospital, with six reported to be in critical condition. Earlier this month, independent UN human rights experts noted that an “unknown number” of foreign nationals had died in the squalid camp of Al-Hol and Roj, in northeast Syria, urging their home countries to repatriate their citizens as soon as possible, dismissing claims that it was too difficult to deal with the non-State groups controlling the local area.

Mr. Chaiban said Member States should do everything possible to reintegrate the children into their own societies and repatriate them in a “safe and dignified way”. The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Mr. Muhannad Hadi, expressed their sorrow over the deadly fire at Al Hol, in a statement also released on Sunday. They extended their heartfelt sympathy to the affected families and wished those injured a speedy recovery.

Humanitarian partners working at Al-Hol have mobilized to provide urgent assistance, and UN and humanitarian partners provide a “comprehensive range of humanitarian assistance to the camp, including emergency and primary health care; water; shelter; non-food items, food and hygiene distributions; nutrition; and protection”, said the statement. With almost 62,000 residents, Al-Hol is the largest camp for displaced people in Syria. More than 80 per cent of the population are women and children.

Source: The UN

Author: Tuula Pohjola