Two Canadian women and three children on way home from detention camps in Syria

Two Canadian women and three children on way home from detention camps in Syria
A general view of Karama camp for internally displaced Syrians, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022 by the village of Atma, Idlib province, Syria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Omar Albam

Two women and three children who were temporarily missing in Syria after failing to board a repatriation flight to Canada in April are finally on their way home.

The women and children were among a group of 19 people Canada agreed to bring home from Kurdish-operated prison camps in northeastern Syria in January.

They have been held for years at displaced persons camps in a region now controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The other 14 people arrived in April but these women and children failed to show up for the flight and neither their lawyers nor the Canadian government knew what happened for several days.

One of their lawyers later said the women and children had been detained by Kurdish guards and not allowed to travel to board the plane at that time.

Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who reached the agreement earlier this year to bring home the 19 women and children from Syria, said their return now is very good news.

“I have spoken to their families here in Canada and they are over the moon, delighted and just overjoyed,” he said.

Greenspon said there is a possibility the women will be arrested when they land in Canada.

The federal government arrested and sought peace bonds against three of the four women who returned in April.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise if they sought peace bonds against either one or both of these two women,” said Greenspon.

The federal government is currently in talks with lawyers representing the three women arrested in April over the conditions that would be put in place under peace bonds for them.

In May, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a decision four Canadian men held in Syrian camps were entitled to Ottawa’s help to return home.

Greenspon says the matter will be pursued at the Supreme Court of Canada.

A small group of civil society members that includes Sen. Kim Pate is expected to travel to the region in late August to visit the four men in hopes of helping to repatriate them.

Greenspon says the two women and three children returning this week gives the delegation going to northeastern Syria a bolstered foundation demonstrating Canada can repatriate its citizens from the region.

The delegation will also include Alex Neve, former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, and Scott Heatherington, a retired Canadian diplomat.

Another Canadian mother of six struggling to leave Syria who was dealt a setback when her tent was damaged by fire is not among the group returning home.

Greenspon says the federal government will not help the Quebec woman return to Canada because officials believe she poses a security risk, and that position has not changed since the fire was reported in late June.

He says he expects to take some sort of legal action against the federal government’s decision to grant repatriation to her six children, but not her.

He said in speaking with her a few days ago she was physically and mentally distraught.

“She is in very, very poor condition,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2023. With files from Jim Bronskill.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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