Canada takes in orphaned girl held in Syria camp

Ottawa (AFP) –

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The Canadian government announced Monday the repatriation of a young orphan girl who was detained in a jihadist prison camp in Syria, a first for a Canadian national.

"I think we have to recognize that this particular situation was an exceptional case of an orphan who no longer had any close family," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the decision to take in five-year-old Amira.

About 50 Canadians, about half of them children, are being held in camps in northeastern Syria.

"We have no plans to do that for others," Trudeau said, despite other countries having repatriated several of their nationals released from the camps controlled by Kurdish forces allied with the West against the Islamic State group and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

An uncle of the girl had taken legal action against the Canadian government to force it to repatriate her.

Amira was born in Syria. Her jihadist parents and brothers were killed in airstrikes in 2019 before the fall of the Islamic State group's "caliphate" five years earlier, according to Canadian media.

"Canada is finally taking concrete action to repatriate a 5-year-old Canadian orphan, detained for almost two years in squalid conditions," Farida Deif, Canadian director of Human Rights Watch (HWR), commented on Twitter.

Amira was being held in the Al-Hol camp, according to HRW.

"I am happy that this Canadian orphan child will now be reunited with her extended family in Canada," said Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

"The goal now is to protect the privacy of the child and to ensure that she receives the support and care necessary to start a new life in Canada," he said.