Australian women, kids dragged from Syrian refugee camp
A group of Australian women and children have been removed in mysterious circumstances from the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria.
Four women and 10 children were taken from the camp to an unknown location after armed men arrived in three white vans at the foreigners' annex at the camp in north-east Syria about midnight on Sunday night.
According to others in the camp, the Australians' tents were searched and torn down and mattresses slashed, before the women were taken away barefoot and in handcuffs.
The group of children ranged in age from one year to 16 years.
The Australian Government is aware of the incident.
The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, who were allies with Australia in the fight to oust Islamic State from Syria, have control over the camp, which houses more than 70,000 women and children family members of Islamic State fighters.
There are around 20 Australian women and 47 children in the camp.
Despite pressure from allies including the Kurds and the United States to repatriate the families, and prosecute the women where appropriate, Australia has only removed two groups of orphans from the camp and returned them to Australia.
The charity Save the Children, which is lobbying to have the families brought back to Australia, said the reports out of al-Hawl were "deeply concerning.''
"It's hard to imagine more vulnerable children than these Aussie kids, who have endured another brutal summer in North East Syria living in a camp without running water or adequate health services, and where people live in flimsy tents at the mercy of the elements,'' deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said.
Kamalle Dabboussy, a spokesman for the detained Australians, said there was deep concern about the incident, in which the women were reportedly strip-searched and taken away in handcuffs.
"There was a search and their tents and mattresses were shredded,'' he said.
He said the situation was "terrifying'' and the women and children were heard screaming and shouting. They had no personal items such as nappies for the children.
"We would expect the Australian Government would have some oversight of the welfare of the Australians women and these vulnerable children,'' he said.
"The Australian Government won't take them out of harm's way and have rejected the offers of the Americans and the Red Cross to get them to safe place.''
The Australian Government has expressed concern that at least some of the women are radicalised and still hold extremist views.
While Australian women have been arrested and taken away for questioning before by SDF personnel, those removals have tended to be more orderly and less heavy-handed.
Originally published as Australian women, kids dragged from Syrian refugee camp