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Could Danish foreign minister Rasmussen change stance over children in Syria?

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Could Danish foreign minister Rasmussen change stance over children in Syria?
Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says the government is yet to finalise its position on whether to evacuate Danish children still stranded at Syrian prison camps. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says the new government is yet to finalise its position on the issue of Danish children who remain at prison camps in Syria.

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Rasmussen, who spoke in favour of repatriating the children before the election, said a decision had not yet been taken after meeting with parliament’s foreign policy committee on Wednesday.

“We’ve negotiated a very comprehensive government policy agreement that fills many pages. But we have not yet addressed all questions and answered every question,” he said.

“The question you are asking is precisely one of those questions,” he said in response to news wire Ritzau asking about the children.

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Rasmussen took a clear stance on the matter prior to the election. In April, he wrote on Twitter that “Danish children are Danish children – and they must come home!”

“If necessary, their mothers must come with them,” he wrote.

A number of children with Danish nationality or the right to Danish nationality have been stranded in recent years at al-Hol and al-Roj, two Kurdish-run prison camps for former Islamic State (Isis) militants and their families and sympathisers. Conditions at the camps are dire according to reports by human rights organisations.

Practice under the policies of the previous single-party Social Democratic government saw Denmark refuse to evacuate mothers unless they have sole Danish citizenship.

If the mothers were connected to Denmark, for example by prior residence or through marriage or if their children were born there, they were not evacuated unless they hold citizenship. Denmark has revoked the citizenship of some of the persons involved.

If they have dual citizenship, the mother were also refused evacuation – although the government has broken with this policy in one instance.

Their children can be extracted from the camps, but this requires the mothers to agree to separation from their children, and this is often not the case.

READ ALSO: Organisation sues Denmark for failure to evacuate children from Syrian camps

Rasmussen, now Foreign Minister, did not give a firm answer on his current position as to repatriating the children.

“I’ve had the privilege until just a few days ago of giving only my own or my party’s opinion. My work is now in partnership with two other parties who have a government position,” he said.

“Other parties’ positions on this exact point are not as well known as mine has been. In principle, nothing has changed it,” he said.

After three mothers and 14 children were evacuated from the camps in 2021, five children and three mothers remain according to Ritzau.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has previously ruled out allowing any of the remaining mothers to be evacuated to Denmark.

One of the mothers who did return to Denmark has since been convicted on terror-related charges and for travelling to a conflict zone without permission from the Danish state. She was sentenced to three years in prison.

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