But France has agreed to repatriate children only on a case-by-case basis, giving priority to orphans and fragile children whose mothers agree to let them go. To date, 35 children have been brought back, including a 7-year-old girl suffering from a heart defect who was flown to France for urgent medical care in April.
In the current French political climate, repatriations might prove even more fraught. In the fall, the country was hit by several Islamist terrorist attacks that reopened old wounds. A draft law aimed at combating Islamism is expected to get final approval in the French Senate next month.
Families of relatives stranded in Syrian camps and rights groups have long denounced this piecemeal repatriation process. In northern France, the mother of a Frenchwoman detained in Syria has been on hunger strike since Feb. 1 to protest France’s policy.
In a public letter, a French lawmaker recently condemned the conditions of the camps and the government’s reluctance to act, which he called “deeply inhuman and irresponsible political cowardice.”
“If, because of our inertia, we continue to condone the guilty silence of the government,” the letter read, “then we will have been the lawmakers who let innocent children die.”
A spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, which oversees the repatriation process, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Marie Dosé and Ludovic Rivière, the lawyers for the women on hunger strike, said in a statement that the women should be only tried in France, and that “for more than two years,” they “have been waiting to pay for what they have done.”