More than 100 Iraqi families have been released from a refugee camp housing thousands of people, including the families of Islamic State fighters, in northeastern Syria.
An official at the al-Hol camp confirmed to Voice of America that 487 Iraqi citizens from 115 families left for a camp in Nineveh province late Wednesday.
This is the second time this year that Iraqis have been released from the camp. In May, 381 Iraqi civilians, or 95 families, left al-Hol and were deported back to Iraq.
When the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military coalition that has been a key US participant in the war against IS, captured the terror group’s last stronghold in Syria in March 2019, it killed thousands of IS militants. detained and his family.
According to camp officials, more than 62,000 individuals, including about 30,000 Iraqi refugees, are still living in al-Hol. The Syrian civilian camp has about 22,000 residents.
Wednesday’s transfer was part of a 2018 deal between local Kurdish officials in Syria and the Iraqi government, according to Dilbirin Khelo, a local journalist who followed events at the camp.
He told the VOA that “the two sides agreed to allow 5,000 Iraqi families to leave the camp if they wish.”
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a VOA request for comment on the issue.
According to Nicholas Heras, a senior analyst at Washington’s Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, the SDF treats Iraqi detainees like local or Syrian detainees.
“Much of the process of releasing Iraqi families from al-Hol requires rigorous negotiation ahead of time, as well as a thorough investigation,” Heras said.
“This effort is only worth it for the SDF if it means the SDF can relocate large groups of people out of al-Hol, and the Iraqi authorities will take them back and guarantee basic subsistence and shelter for them,” he said. Will give.” He said the Iraqi government suspects any family tainted by the stigma of being linked to IS.
SDF officials released 324 Syrian civilians from al-Hol in August, raising the number of Syrian families to 1,600.
Local officials hope that reducing the population of Al-Hol will help reduce violence in the camp. At least 70 people have died in al-Hol this year, according to the United Nations. Reports say that most of the victims were Iraqi migrants.
This story originated in VOA’s Kurdish service.