“They are mainly minors. Their children are born there, others left France with their parents when they were small. There are more children than adults there," said French justice minister Nicole Belloubet on French private radio station RTL on Thursday.
She was addressing criticisms about the eventual return of French jihadists to French soil.
“There are a lot of children. A few have already been repatriated back to France after we made an agreement with their mothers and we have taken on some of the children. We also want to take care of the children who are orphans,” she added, saying that it needs to be determined which children are with their parents.
Children held by Kurds
The French children are being held by Kurdish forces in Syria, said Belloubet, although she does not have and exact number of exactly how many are there. However, 75 per cent are children under seven. She said that the French are detained in different camps, but that also needs to be confirmed.
French newswire AFP reports that of the estimated130 French people held in the camps, 50 are adults. The remaining 80 are children. They are being detained by the Kurd-majority Syrian Democratic forces (FDS).
France against repatriation
France opposes the return of jihadists to France, but prefers that they be repatriated instead of being left in Syria to disappear and turn up later as a security threat on French soil.
If the French detained by the Kurds were to be released and expelled, I believe that we - In France - have a collective interest in knowing where they are rather than leaving them free without knowing," she said.
Minister Belloubet said that the children and adults would be judicially taken care of once they returned to France where they will be either placed in custody or put under investigation.
“The fact of having visited a battlefield can be qualified as terrorist criminal association,” she said, adding that France has several prisons that would be able to hold this type of prisoner.