Children trapped in Al Hol camp in North East Syria have made a desperate plea to the Australian Government in major national newspapers today.
The plight of the 47 Australian children, including a newborn, reinforces the urgent need for the Australian Government to immediately repatriate them, Save the Children has said.
Save the Children’s Director of International Programs and Policy Mat Tinkler said the latest reports were harrowing, demonstrating a very real threat to the lives of Australian children.
“The 47 Australian children are languishing in life-threatening conditions and as the brutal Syrian winter begins, the situation in the camp is only set to worsen,” Mr Tinkler said.
“Already many of these children are suffering from pneumonia, malnutrition, infections and shrapnel wounds. Unsurprisingly, many are also suffering from severe stress, anxiety and depression, undoubtedly triggered by what they’ve seen and continue to live through.
“If left suffering in the camp, I fear it’s only a matter of time before an Australian child dies.”
In the past year, more than 400 children have died either en route to or inside the camps in North East Syria.
“That’s why we are appealing to the Prime Minister to bring these children home. We cannot leave Australian children to live like this, in fear for their lives, knowing we have the ability to make them safe,” Mr Tinkler said.
“This is a time of year for giving, and so we’re appealing to the generosity of all Australians to help us ensure these children are returned home to safety. Their families here are ready to provide the love and care they so desperately need to reintegrate into the Australian way of life.”
Save the Children does not deny that some of the mothers may have serious questions to answer, however stresses that the only place for them to be held truly accountable is back in Australia.
“Australian women in Al-Hol have agreed to be subject to the most stringent control orders, that severely restrict their freedom of movement and association, mitigating the risk they may pose to Australians,” Mr Tinkler said.
“Regardless of the decisions of their parents, these children are innocent, and they deserve our urgent support.”
The US and Kurdish authorities have both offered to support the Australian Government in moving any Australian citizens from the camps to the Iraqi border where they could reasonably be met by Australian officials, therefore ensuring no Australian lives are put at risk.
Countries including the UK, USA, France, Ireland, Germany and Denmark have already repatriated many of their citizens, including children, from Syria.