Politics

Turkey hasn't asked Canada to accept return of ISIS fighters after Syria incursion, says Global Affairs

Global Affairs said today that Turkey has not asked Canada to accept any foreign fighters who might have been detained during its operations in northern Syria.

Canadian official says Turkey hasn't indicated it has any Canadians in custody in Syria

A Turkish and Russian patrol is seen near the town of Darbasiyah, Syria, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Baderkhan Ahmad/The Associated Press)

Global Affairs said today that Turkey has not asked Canada to accept any foreign fighters who might have been detained during its operations in northern Syria.

"We have reached out to Syrian Kurdish officials to seek information on Canadians in their custody and have sought assurances from Turkey that any Canadians detained in the region would be handled in accordance with international law," said Barbara Harvey, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada.

"We continue to monitor the situation very closely. At the moment, Turkey has not asked Canada to repatriate any Canadians detained in the region."

A Canadian government official speaking on background told CBC News that Turkey also has not told the Canadian government that Turkey has any Canadian citizens in custody in Syria following its military incursion.

Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Friday that Turkey will start sending captured Islamic State members back to their countries of origin next week, regardless of whether the fighters' countries of origin have revoked their citizenship.

Soylu said the extraditions would start Monday.

"Whatever your objections, whether you take their citizenships or not, we will deport back those [ISIS] fighters who are your own people and your own citizens. No matter what you do. Then you will know what to tell your people," said Soylu, according to the Associated Press.

"As we have said before, we are nobody's hotel for [ISIS]."

When U.S. President Donald Trump ordered American forces out of northeastern Syria, Turkey launched an offensive into that part of the country with the aim of pushing out the Syrian Kurdish fighters it sees as terrorists.

After the U.S. pullout, Kurdish forces approached the Syrian government and Russia for protection. Syrian government troops and Russian military police subsequently moved into areas along the border.

Canadians in Kurdish custody

Turkey has accused the Syrian Kurdish forces it is fighting in northeastern Syria of releasing ISIS families from camps last month. The minister also said about 287 ISIS members, including women and children, were re-captured during Turkey's offensive.

Since the fall of ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces has held approximately 11,000 ISIS detainees, including 2,000 foreign fighters, in more than two dozen camps.

There are as many as 32 Canadians (six men, nine women and 17 children) in two camps in northeastern Syria, according to research by Amarnath Amarasingam, an assistant professor at Queen's University's school of religion, which was published in Policy Options magazine last summer.

"The Government of Canada is aware of Canadian citizens being detained in Syria. Given the security situation on the ground, the Government of Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in Syria is extremely limited," said Harvey.

With files from the CBC's Murray Brewster

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