Danish government ‘withheld security report’ on children in Syrian camps

Danish government 'withheld security report' on children in Syrian camps
Al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria. File photo: Ali Hashisho/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix
The government is suspected – by its own political allies in parliament – of withholding a 2019 report by police intelligence agency PET on Danish children in camps in Syria.

According to the report by newspaper Ekstra Bladet,  PET concluded in the spring of 2019 that the children – who are in the camps because their parents travelled to Syria to support militant groups – do not pose a threat to Danish security.

But the report was not made public by the government until March 2020.

The government has long resisted repatriating Danish nationals, including children, from the Syrian camps of Al-Hol and Al-Roj.

PET concluded in spring 2019 that Danish children in the camps did not pose a threat to Danish security but risked permanent damage and radicalisation if they were forced to remain in the camps, according to Ekstra Bladet’s report, which is based on several anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter.

The government did not release the conclusions of the report to the public until March 2020, when Denmark was locked down due to the coronavirus.

The newspaper reports that the Ministry of Justice received the PET assessment as early as spring 2019. But its contents were not made public until the following year, despite significant political and societal debate over the issue during 2019.

In the autumn of last year, the government stood by its position that it would not intervene to help return the children to Denmark.

Three parties normally allied to the government on Denmark’s left have expressed criticism of its conduct over the report.

“I cannot see any reason to withhold the report, either technically or reasonably,” Red Green Alliance justice spokesperson Rosa Lund told Ritzau.

Lund’s party supports repatriating the children and has said it will summon justice minister Nick Hækkerup to a parliamentary hearing.

In a written comment, Hækkerup admitted that it took too long for the report to be released, but said that the delay was due to updates to the risk assessment made by the security service.

“This should be seen in light of the major terror attacks the world saw during 2019 and which gave PET cause to update its draft risk assessment on several occasions,” the minister told Ekstra Bladet.

But no change was made to the agency’s assessment in relation to the children, according to the newspaper.

PET’s terror risk assessment for Denmark has been issued annually since 2012 through the agency’s Centre for Terror Analysis (CTA).

The assessment in relation to the Syrian camp children states that “based on CTA’s assessment it is unlikely that an actual terror threat is posed by children of persons who travelled from Denmark to conflict zones. That is connected, first and foremost, to the current young age of the children”.

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