ISTANBUL—A German woman suspected of supporting the Islamic State was repatriated from Syria along with her three children last month, in the first case of an adult European ISIS member brought home through official channels. On Nov. 22, the family was released from the overcrowded detention camp in northern Syria where they’d lived for almost a year and transferred to the Iraqi city of Erbil, where they boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
The mother, known only as Laura H., had her passport confiscated upon arrival. She cannot leave Germany, as she is being investigated for belonging to a terrorist group.
Cases like this one are notable but rare, as most European countries resist taking back their citizens who joined the Islamic State, concerned about potential security risks and a political backlash. As a result, hundreds of Europeans remain in detention in Kurdish-controlled camps in northern Syria and in Iraqi jails, where many European officials would prefer they stay. Whether such a policy is consistent with international law is questionable, especially given the deplorable conditions in those Syrian and Iraqi detention facilities. From a security standpoint, too, the camps are hotbeds of radicalization that are creating fertile conditions for the growth of another international terrorist movement.