Canada repatriates orphaned girl from ISIS camp in Syria

Canadian officials removed an orphaned girl from an ISIS detention camp in northeastern Syria on the weekend, her lawyer told Global News on Monday.

The girl, known as Amira, is the first Canadian to be repatriated from Syrian camps for ISIS detainees.

The daughter of suspected Canadian ISIS supporters killed in 2019, Amira was handed over to a consular official and was being accompanied to Canada.

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing the girl’s uncle, said he received a phone call from Global Affairs Canada on Sunday confirming the news.

“I am pleased that this Canadian child orphaned in Syria will soon be united with extended family in Canada,” Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Monday.

“Global Affairs Canada has been actively engaged in this case since first learning of the child’s exceptional circumstances. The focus is now on protecting the child’s privacy and ensuring that the child receives the support and care needed to begin a new life here in Canada.”

He thanked the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces “for their valuable support during this process.”

The case marks an about face for the Liberal government, which had previously refused to repatriate any Canadian citizens from camps for ISIS captives and their families.

While Canada’s close allies such as the United States have brought their citizens out of the camps, some to face charges over their involvement in ISIS, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has claimed the region was too dangerous for Canadian officials.

What changed the government’s policy is unclear but Amira’s uncle had filed a case in the Federal Court alleging the government had violated her rights by not bringing her home.

“Canada finally took concrete action to bring home a 5-year-old orphan detained for nearly two years in a squalid camp in northeast Syria,” said Farida Deif, the Human Rights Watch Canada Director.

“While this step is commendable, it does not absolve Canada of its responsibility to bring home all its detained nationals for rehabilitation, reintegration, and prosecution if warranted. The lives of 46 other Canadians, including 25 children, remain on the line. The government should stop turning a blind eye to their detention in overcrowded, filthy, and life-threatening camps and prisons.”

In a report release in June, Human Rights Watch urged the government to bring back the Canadians as a “matter of urgent priority.”

The children, most of whom were born in Syria to Canadian parents, should be treated as victims of ISIS and prioritized for return, the report said, adding adult detainees should be investigated.

The government’s decision to repatriate Amira followed a flurry of ISIS-related arrests in Canada.

Two alleged former ISIS members were arrested in Calgary, a woman accused of trying to join ISIS was arrested in Markham, Ont., and a Burlington, Ont. man was charged for allegedly faking his involvement in ISIS.

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