Turkey has begun its promised deportation of I.S members that are being held in camps. There are a reported 813 militants being held at 12 deportation centres across Turkey; the majority of whom will be sent back to European Union states. Another 287 people including women and children were captured by Turkey after its invasion of the Kurdish-held areas of Syria in October. So far, Turkey has not detailed the exact number of militants that they will send home, but their initial announcement on 2 November said they aimed to repatriate 2,500 individuals.
As of 11 November one US citizen had already been repatriated and seven German nationals were due to be flown home on 14 November. Turkish ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli told Andalou agency that,
“Travel plans for seven foreign terrorist fighters of German origin at deportation centres have been completed, they will be deported on Nov. 14,”
Reports from Turkey claim that the authorities are also making travel plans and processing the deportation of two Irish, 11 French, and three Danish citizens.
Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, initially said on 2 November that Turkey would begin to send Isis militants back to their home countries from 11 November, even if they had been stripped of their citizenship:
“Now we are telling you that we are going to send [members of Isis] back to you. We are starting this on Monday,” Süleyman Soylu said on 8 November.
He went on to say that countries revoking citizenship were irresponsible:
“Countries can’t just revoke the citizenship of such ex-terrorists and expect Turkey to take care of them; this is unacceptable to us and it’s also irresponsible…Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists.”
French defence minister Florence Parly spoke to French media on 11 November claiming that France had no current knowledge of any ‘specific repatriation’, but emphasised that France does have a strict protocol and an agreement in place with Turkey that,
“allows us to repatriate French terrorists when the situation arises.”
Parly went on to say that said this protocol was in place to avoid any unauthorised return to France by French fighters. The 2014 agreement has seen some militants already be repatriated to France from Turkey. A French foreign ministry spokesperson said that this protocol was already working effectively. The spokesperson said,
“Jihadists and their families are regularly sent back to France and arrested as they leave the airplance. Most of the time it is done secretly. The news is not published, or released much later,”
The UK responded by saying that the deportations policy did not apply to UK nationals that are being held by Turkey. Two I.S members are known to in custody in Turkey including Aine Davis, a member of the notorious ‘Beatles’ group, who is serving seven years in a Turkish prison for beheading hostages.
Since 2010, the UK has stripped more than 100 people of British citizenship over their alleged links to Isis, al-Qaida, al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.
However, a number of MPs including have called for the government to repatriate UK extremists. The former Home Secretary’s stripping of Shamima Begum’s citizenship led to condemnation from UK MPs. In February 2019 Kenneth Clarke MP strongly criticized the policy:
“To have every western country desperately trying to find obscure legal arguments to shove them into some other country and leave them in Syria will be an absolute disaster, a great boost for jihadism,”
Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood also warned that the detention of thousands of militants and their families in Syria was creating conditions for an Isis resurgence and global terror attacks.
The US has yet to respond to the announcement of the deportation of one of its citizens, but US President Trump has a press conference scheduled with Turkey’s Erdogan on 13 November. The two are expected to discuss and receive questions on the Turkish incursion into Syria, Syrian Kurd leaders’ claims of attacks on their population and the US decision to keep some US troops in Syria. The press conference is also set to take place on the same day as Trump’s impeachment hearing but will go ahead as planned. Analysts are now awaiting the outcome of the meeting to establish whether developing tensions between the two nations improve or deteriorate.