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GENEVA: UN experts expressed concern on Friday that tens of thousands of children in northeast Syria are being arbitrarily detained for alleged ties to Islamic State and violations of international law.

UN special rapporteur Fionuara Nee Aorain said she was also concerned about hundreds of boys being “snatched” from camps the day after they returned from the area.

Thousands of internally displaced persons, including Syrians, Iraqis and other nationals, and families of suspected IS fighters are being held in camps across the region after fleeing jihadist-controlled areas during the Syrian conflict.

“When I visited northeast Syria, my team and I were most concerned about the massive, indefinite and arbitrary detention of children, especially boys, in various types of institutions,” she said.

Their detention in camps, prisons and centers “is predicated on their alleged threat to security based on suspicions that they or their parents had past ties to Daesh,” he added, using a synonym for IS.

Nie Aolein spoke a day after she said it was the first visit to the region by a UN human rights expert.

Among the places she visited was the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, which houses about 55,000 people, including 31,000 children. Third country nationals from Western countries are also included, despite pressure from the United Nations.

Northeast Syria, including Al-Hol, is under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed organization. A representative of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF)-affiliated authority in the region did not respond to a request for comment.

Self-Defense Forces officials regularly call on foreign countries to repatriate families of Islamic State militants who are in detention camps.

Ny Aorain described the situation in Al Hol as “dire and extreme” and said the temperature was 50 degrees Celsius during her visit. She said the term “camp” was inappropriate because people could not come and go freely.

“There seems to be no understanding that detaining children in a never-ending cycle of detention from cradle to grave is a complete violation of international law,” she said. She also expressed her concern about hundreds of adolescent boys being separated from their mothers in the camps, saying it could pose a safety risk. She did not disclose where she went, but she has previously said she went to an unknown location.

“Every woman I spoke to made it clear that child abduction was the most disturbing, the most distressing and the most traumatic,” she said. “The rationale for taking these boys does not stand up to scrutiny.”

In February, UN human rights experts expressed grave concern over reports that authorities had abducted at least 10 boys from Loj, another camp in northeastern Syria.

They said there was a pattern of forcibly removing boys from the camps when they reached the age of 10 or 12, separating them from their mothers and taking them to strange places, which they claimed was completely illegal.

In a statement at the time, the Self-Defense Forces-affiliated autonomous government said the report was “far from the truth.”

The newspaper reported that camp administrators sometimes took them away, saying they put them in rehabilitation centers because they were at the age at which they were most at risk of being affected by extremism. UN expert condemns ‘mass arbitrary detention’ of Syrian children

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