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Iraq repatriates 700 people from Syria’s Al-Hol camp

Baghdad – Iraq repatriated 700 people from Syria’s Al-Hol camp, home to tens of thousands of people including family members of suspected jihadists, a local official and a war monitor said Monday.

More than 43,000 Syrians, Iraqis and foreigners from at least 45 countries are held in the squalid and overcrowded camp in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria.

Al-Hol houses relatives of suspected Islamic State (IS) group militants alongside refugees.

“700 people or around 160 families have returned from Al-Hol” in the latest repatriation effort, said the Iraqi official, requesting anonymity because he is now allowed to speak to the media.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that 714 Iraqis left the camp on Sunday.

Upon arrival in Iraq, authorities usually keep returnees from Al-Hol for weeks or even months at what officials describe as a “psychological rehabilitation” facility in Al-Jadaa camp near the northern city of Mosul, where they also undergo security checks before returning home.

Nearly 160 Iraqi families were repatriated from Al-Hol in March.

More than 1,920 Iraqi families have been transferred so far to Al-Jadaa, national security adviser Qasim al-Araji said in March. The figure includes 1,230 families who had been allowed to return home.

Repatriation of family members of suspected IS members has stirred controversy in Iraq, where the jihadist group had seized large swathes of land before being defeated in late 2017.

Some Iraqis have resisted the repatriation efforts, saying they do not want IS families among them.

Still, Baghdad regularly repatriates its citizens from Al-Hol, a policy commended by the United Nations and the United States.

Despite its territorial defeat, IS militants continue to conduct attacks against civilians and security forces in both Iraq and Syria.

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