Turkey to repatriate most ISIS detainees by end of year

Turkey will have repatriated a significant portion of its Islamic State (ISIS) detainees to their home countries before the new year, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Tuesday.

Soylu’s statement arrives a week after Turkish authorities announced they had begun the repatriation of ISIS detainees to their country of origin. 

Turkey has captured 287 ISIS members in northeastern Syria since it launched a military offensive on Oct. 9, and there are some 1,200 ISIS detainees in Turkish prisons.

Soylu said Turkey was aiming to send six or seven more Islamic State suspects this week to their home countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands. Turkish officials are in touch with counterparts there, Soylu said.

“I think we will have sent a large part of them to their countries by the end of the year,” Reuters quoted Soylu as saying, 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.”

“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,” the Turkish interior minister added.

Turkey has repatriation and extradition agreements with the countries concerned, but informs them before repatriating the ISIS detainees.

Ankara has accused Western countries, especially in Europe, of being too slow to take back citizens who travelled to the Middle East to fight for the jihadist organisation.

Turkey’s military offensive in northeast Syria has drawn widespread criticism from European leaders and raised fears of ISIS resurgence.

The offensive targets Kurdish forces, allied with the U.S who held ISIS captives, some of whom managed to escape during the early days of the operation.

Turkey has thus far repatriated 10 German nationals, one U.S. citizen, and one British suspected fighter with Ankara has saying it will deported suspects to Ireland, France and other mostly European nations in the coming days.