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Thursday 22 August 2019

Several Irish citizens are being held in same camp, claim locals

A general view of a Syrian refugee camp. Ireland is one of more than 25 countries liaising with US authorities in relation to repatriation of citizens from the war-torn region. Photo: REUTERS
A general view of a Syrian refugee camp. Ireland is one of more than 25 countries liaising with US authorities in relation to repatriation of citizens from the war-torn region. Photo: REUTERS

Norma Costello and Laura Larkin

There are several Irish people in the Syrian camp where Dundalk woman Lisa Smith is being held, according to local information.

It is understood there are currently three Irish citizens in the Al-Hawl camp - Ms Smith, her two-year-old daughter Ruqqaya and the young son of Isil suspect Alexandr Bekmirzaev.

Bekmirzaev, who is originally from Belarus but who has Irish citizenship, is currently being held in prison in northern Syria.

His wife, who is an Irish resident, is also believed to be in the Al-Hawl camp.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs last night declined to comment on reports of other Irish citizens being held in the camp.

Local sources on the ground in Syria also said that an Irish citizen, believed to be from the west of Ireland and who was reported to have been in Isil territory, has not been accounted for along with another family that includes a teenage boy.

Speaking from the Al-Hawl camp, Ms Smith said she wanted to return home. She said her daughter was her "number one priority" and she wanted to bring her to Ireland so she could be educated.

The former member of the Defence Forces insisted she did not fight for Isil and did not train any fighters for the terror group.

Ireland is one of more than 25 countries liaising with US authorities in relation to repatriation of citizens from the war-torn region.

However, it is understood that one factor in the discussion around repatriating Ms Smith is the US is likely to demand Ireland takes other passport holders back, including any who travelled to the region to fight with Isil.

The US State Department called earlier this year for countries to take their citizens who have been detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and deal with them through domestic judicial systems.

Ms Smith and her child's repatriation has been complicated by the fact there is no Irish diplomatic presence on the ground and it is considered to be too unsafe to send Irish officials to the region.

Irish Independent

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