Kurdish authorities in Iraq announced on Friday that the children of notorious Islamic State fighter and recruiter Michael Skråmo can be taken from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria to Sweden's consulate in the city of Erbil in Iraq.
The children, aged between one and eight years old, were left orphaned and alone in the caliphate after their father was killed in battle in the Syrian town of Baghouz in late March. Their mother was also killed in early 2019.
“It feels wonderful, it's a huge relief,” Skråmos’s father told Swedish broadcaster TV4, adding that the children will be admitted to a private hospital when they arrive at Erbil.
“These children have gone through a terrible situation and need to receive psychological counselling.”
Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot disclose anything further on Skråmos’s children’s move, telling Swedish news agency TT “We never comment on individual cases. Any dialogue we take part in is with relatives”.
Anywhere from 60 to 80 children with a Swedish connection are believed to be held at the al-Hol refugee camp, with the question of how to solve the situation for children of IS-affiliates remaining highly debated.
Several parliamentary parties have criticised the Swedish government for not acting fast enough – something that’s been rejected by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.
“We work as fast as we can. But there is no quick fix for this as some seem to believe,” she said earlier this week.
On Thursday, Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations Humanitarian Aid Coordinator, urged the relevant governments to urgently seek a solution.
“Children should first and foremost be treated as victims,” he told journalists.
“Regardless of which solution we choose, the decision must be made based on the best interests of the children”.
Michael Skråmos’s father, who is in Erbil waiting for his grandchildren, is hopeful the minors will now be able to return to Sweden soon.
“Half the process is resolved. Two different administrations must give us the permits to allow the children to be evacuated.
“Right now I have instructions to wait here in Erbil and not to go to Syria, I have to wait for the call before picking them up to Al-Hol and drive them back to Erbil.”
Since 2012, around 300 people have travelled from Sweden to Syria and Iraq to join violent Islamist groups in the region, mainly the terrorist organization IS.
Roughly half of them have returned back to Sweden.
Skråmo, a Norwegian citizen born and brought up in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, was one of the most prolific propagandists of the Islamic State terror group.
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