Debate concerning the repatriation of children from war and conflict (Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης, 30.01.2020)

Debate under urgent procedure: International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war and conflict, Dimitrios Kairidis (Greece EPP/CD), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Winter Session, 30.01.2020:

“Thank you, Mr Chairman. I would like to thank the rapporteur and the Commissioner for their input in the debate. Frankly speaking I don’t see much of a debate with the exception of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance. We seem to be all more or less in agreement. I would like to thank especially my Spanish delegate, the previous speaker, for bringing to your attention the efforts of my home country, Greece, in dealing with the problem. We are proud in Greece for what we have done dealing with the refugee migration crisis, but we are also very proud for the fact that our own indigenous Muslim community gave no DAESH fighter in Syria or Iraq whatsoever.

We are faced with a humanitarian crisis, there is no doubt. In principle we should all be in favor of the repatriation of children from war zones to their country of nationality and to where their family resides. The principle is in no doubt for orphans who have both their parents dead. They do have a right to return to their country of origin. The problem begins when the possible repatriation of children involves possible family reunification when all the members of this family were involved in criminal acts, including committing war crimes and genocide as DAESH fighters of European origin in Syria and Iraq have been accused of or have committed. European countries are right to be concerned about the risks to the security of their societies posed by the return of DAESH fighters to their home country. These legitimate concerns, however, cannot be allowed to violate the rights of European children to return to their home country. Nor should we allow them to create a legal no man’s land where those criminals and suspects of European origin are permanently exiled without access to a proper rule of law legal proceeding.

If the repatriation of children involves the repatriation of parents I see no problem provided parents are prosecuted for crimes committed abroad. We cannot delegate our responsibility for what our citizens did abroad to other countries, including Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Furthermore, later on this afternoon we will discuss the rights and protections of missing refugee and migrant children in Europe. It goes without saying that we should be equally concerned about all children, including our own nationals. Thus, in the name of the law, humanitarianism and our own security interests, we should not hide away from the problem in the hope that it goes away to the detriment of our legal obligations towards our citizens. Thank you