LONDON: Canada is repatriating six women and 13 children from a prison camp in northeast Syria, the BBC reported.
It follows an agreement by Canada’s federal government in January to repatriate the group, which includes members who were detained as a result of their associations with Daesh.
But within the repatriation mission, the government vetoed the inclusion of four Canadian men who are also imprisoned in Syria.
The lawyer representing the repatriated Canadians, Lawrence Greenspon, said the women and children were in transit on Wednesday.
He added: “I’ve talked to their various family members here in Canada and they are absolutely delighted that some three-and-a-half years after we started this process of trying to bring the women and children home, their loved ones are on their way.”
The Syrian repatriation mission is Canada’s largest since the collapse of Daesh, and comes as Western countries ramp up efforts to return their citizens from prison camps in the northeast of the country, where more than 42,000 foreign nationals are detained.
Within the group of Canadians, a mother with six children in the camp was subject to security assessments, with the government offering the return of her children without her. It is believed that the mother will return at a later date.
Greenspon said: “Her choice was that she wants the children to be repatriated and her to be with them at the same time.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was questioned about whether the government was violating its own policy by separating the mother from her children as part of the repatriation mission.
He said Canada was “engaged with all our responsibilities,” adding: “The situation in north-eastern Syria is incredibly volatile. Canada is watching very, very closely.”
Canada has also arrested several individuals over links to Daesh in the wake of the terror group’s collapse.
In October last year, federal police arrested a woman returning from Syria. She was charged with terror offenses. It followed a similar case in which a “Daesh bride” was arrested after returning to Canada.
The group of four men who were excluded from the latest repatriation mission includes British Canadian Jack Letts, whose citizenship was axed by the UK government.
A Canadian federal court has ordered the government to repatriate the men, who have not faced formal charges but remain imprisoned in Syria. The government has appealed the decision.