Turkey says it will repatriate most ISIS detainees by year-end

Suspected ISIS members at a prison run by Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG) on Nov 10, 2019.
Suspected ISIS members at a prison run by Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG) on Nov 10, 2019.PHOTO: ZUMA/DPA

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Turkey will have repatriated most of its Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) detainees to their home countries by the end of the year, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Tuesday (Nov 19), a week after Turkish authorities began the repatriation programme.

Ankara says it has captured 287 militants in north-east Syria, where Turkish troops launched an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia last month, and has hundreds more militant suspects in detention.

Speaking to Reuters in Ankara, Soylu said Turkey was aiming to send six or seven more ISIS suspects this week to their home countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands.

Turkish officials were in touch with counterparts there.

"The number of detainees to be repatriated by the year-end depends on how long the processes take, but especially for Europe, the process is under way," Soylu said.

"I think we will have sent a large part of them to their countries by the end of the year," he said, adding that certain countries that revoked the citizenships of their nationals were violating international law.

"They do not have the right to leave their citizens without a nationality. They have no such right," he said.

"This is why we held evaluations with certain countries on this, and they are taking them back."

Turkey has repatriation and extradition agreements with the countries concerned but informs them before sending detainees back.


Two ISIS mothers, aged 23 and 25, were detained at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on Tuesday evening after being deported from Turkey, Dutch prosecutors said.

They are suspected of membership in a terrorist organisation.

The women, who were travelling with two children aged three and four, will be brought before a judge on Friday.

Turkey has accused its European allies of being too slow to take back their citizens who had travelled to the Middle East to join ISIS. Meanwhile, European countries are trying to speed up a plan to move thousands of militants out of Syrian prisons and into Iraq.

Turkey's European Nato allies have been worried that last month's offensive into northeastern Syria could lead to ISIS suspects and their families escaping from the prisons and camps run by the YPG.

Ankara, which views the YPG as a terrorist group linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil, has dismissed the concerns, saying the militia had vacated some of the prisons and allowed around 800 militants to escape.

So far Turkey has repatriated 10 German nationals, one US citizen, and one British suspected fighter. Ankara has said that suspects will still be deported to Ireland, France and other mostly European nations in the coming days.