Listen: The uncertain fate of defeated Isis fighters
"Looking at the dilemma facing European governments as they debate whether to take back hundreds of former ISIS fighters and their supporters who European nationals and want to return home after the near total collapse of the ISIS caliphate. This issues coming to a head because ISIS last stronghold in northeast Syria is on the brink of falling. One of the military groups backed by the US. There says it's already holding eight hundred two thousand foreign fighters in prison, including Britain's French and Germans Donald Trump has called for those to be repatriated immediately. But the UK France and Germany have many reasons to resist to talk about all this with me on the line. From Brussels is Michael peel, the F T European diplomatic correspondent, I'm from Beirut. Khloe Cornish, the F T Middle East correspondent, so Michael. Let's start the discussion with you. There's been a lot of attention in the UK in recent days on one case a lady named Shamima begging who left London as a fifteen year old school go to. Join ISIS in Syria, and now wants to be allowed back to the UK with her newborn baby. Tell us a little bit about the significance of that case. Well, this has become very contentious because this week the secretary of the UK tried to strip this big of her nationality is out of his policy of saying that he would make it difficult as possible for his come back. And then that sparked a huge debate of whether this is fair or even legal, and it really highlights the very difficult situation that European countries in with these places that are that citizens and now that leaving Syria or thinking about coming home as the coalition closes in on the group's last stronghold. And this problem has several dimensions one is the legal aspect that. If these people come home, how would they dealt with can. And should they be prosecuted if they aren't prosecuted their questions of evidence? The obviously the Syrian battlefield. Field is not an easy place to get evidence from that would spend up in a western court. And then there's the question of if these people are not jails and come home and free in the home countries is there danger that they might be involved in terrorism in their home countries in which case, they need to be monitored. And then those all the resources and legal process risks though around that and then on the other side, there's also the point that should European countries. Have the right just to wash the hands of their own citizens because they seen as difficult cases to handle in. Of course, if people like, miss bedroom, don't come home. They remain the problem of Syria, which is a received country that is war wrecks and has suffered hugely at the hands of ISIS. And therefore some people say, well, how is it fad? That's rich European countries. Whose citizens have been recognized home often should put it onto a country like Syria to bear responsibility for what to do with them. Now, we've talked about the UK. Case. What have we heard from French and German ministers about how they're thinking about this dilemma, well, there's some resistance from everybody expressed more or less explicitly in public the idea of people coming home and the castle is for this is being President Donald Trump over the weekend tweeted that European countries should take back their nationals? Otherwise, he said they might have to be released those of them are in custody of US-backed forces. So that's bringing the issue to a head. But no European country is keen to take these people back. So the reasons I've described but then again over the years, many fights have gone back and have been dealt with in different ways. Sometimes by prosecution of the times north now khloe, let's turn to you. Tell us about the situation on the ground in northeast Syria. Where is this is as I mentioned in the process of losing control of its final bastion what's happening there. And what's happening to the people who live in that area been reduced to about three hundred fighters from what we can see from. Central basically in a bunch of tents in the cool behooves in northeast Syria. The UN is said dot I was holding hundreds of civilians in this area as human shields, but news agencies have just reported, the truckloads of people being brought out of the sillage the US box Syrian democratic forces who are fighting ISIS say they've been trying to secure the safe reduces to the ensure while or one civilians are out here in democratic forces say they will attack the final few ISIS fighters, and they really bottled very viciously so far it's a kind of surrender or die situation. So the caliphate in its territorial integrity what they called the caliphate is nearly completely extinguished at this point. But I will live on in other phones and does live on another phone. There's a big camp full of displaced people who were living in this last ISIS stronghold which was developed cooled our whole count, which is close by. We think. About forty thousand people actually who are living in that comes down. He's in dregs, and drives of been coming out is the area since December quite lots of children have been killed from hypothermia and other complications because they conditioned there reported to be really very dire. And it's been very difficult for them in the journey from this last village while I was holding to these Cam. So you should name a bag on the other foreign nationals who commanded this last part of the self declared caliphate found themselves in these Radi. Very dry conditions in this camp on the outskirts of this last bustle, understandable, why people you can see a root out wanted. Try and take it Michael coming back to you. That's talk a little bit about the politics of this in Europe where refugees emerging from Syria and Iraq have obviously been a massively political issue in recent years, you've just been to a big security conference in Munich where this issue of the phone fight. Of very much on the agenda there. What did you learn about how the politics of this playing out in different parts of Europe security conference in last weekend revealed a lot of tensions between the US and European powers over Syria and part of these as we talked about is over what to do with the former ISIS fighters and camp followers who are European citizens. But another dimension is that the US is putting pressure on European countries to devote more resources to Syria care, whether they want European boots on the ground. But certainly they want Europeans become more involved, especially as President Trump has announced that the US will be withdrawing its forces. Although it's still not clear to what degree and when that will happen. But it does as you say play into the whiter crisis in Europe, which is a political crisis as much as anything else about borders and about what critics say is fortress Europe that's been created. Where Europe is becoming more and more reluctant to let people in even when as in this case, the could argue that it has destroyed responsibility to deal with people who are after all citizens over its own countries. And are we seeing any European leaders come under pressure from opposition politicians or indeed media in that countries to either take a very tough line on these foreign fighters ought to be more lenient is that becoming part of the debate. Well, bedroom case in the UK Kili distills, some traditional outlines between a hardline approach which says, well, these people have made that bird, and they need to lie in even if as in the case of miss Bigham met she was only fifteen years old when she left and others who say, well, no, we need to observe all legal and moreover responsibilities to deal with these people in whatever way. And then another strand is those who say, well, if these cases are dealt with in adept way, the results could be that. These people who perhaps could become very powerful advocates to warn people in my otherwise be radicalized in European countries against following the same path. In other words, I made a huge mistake to do the same thing. Absolutely now khloe back to you there, obviously, many more ISIS fighters and family members who do not have European possibles than do. So there are many more thousands of people whose fates up in the air. You recently spent time with some of them in northern Iraq. Tell me what do you think the future holds for them? Yeah. You're right. Because I think he's self declared caliphate stretched across I consider it. And it was thought to have about seven million people living in a one point. So there's another people who are the work twin ISIS or maybe became accidentally associated with them. I think it's very much worth pointing out. There's a lot of grey areas in all the very very difficult to know exactly what being an ISIS member, really meant. Now. The Iraqi government is pursuing a sweeping crackdown on people suspected of being ISIS, fighters or members tens of thousands of men who came out of the territories that were being held by ISIS had been jailed in Iraqi prisons, and there's lots of criticism of this process. Human rights groups said just this is not actually being done a lot of beaver wrestling done based on rumors rather than evidence or base, even on torture confessions. So there have been many executions of people convicted devices membership to this point. But we'll never probably know. Whether or not people were actually ISIS members. I mean think it it'd be difficult to make some of the evidence used in these trials admissible in Mike European corporate? For instance, many families of suspected or confirmed by suspended are living in camps across Iraq. Some of which are reportedly like open at presence because they're not really allowed to leave one of the issues. I notice when I was visiting a couple of days ago was that people lacking in documentations, the con- actually leave the come because there's so many checkpoints around that they'd be stopped intended by anyway, even if it's not an official detainment camps. You can end up being detained by Dennis no having the right paperwork. So these families are largely unable to go home back to the places that the from either because they fear that they will be ostracized and persecuted by people who have gone back weren't isolated or their houses have been destroyed or in the case of a huge majority of people. Was trying to because the men in the family have been detained. Now, the family is being headed by women, and they consider not a safe and secure thing for them to do to actually try to go home. So it's a pretty desperate situation really for them. I mean, they're stuck in limbo. No one could give me a good answer about what's going to happen to these people. You can't prove say or been a affiliate so ISIS members. But they on in a position where they can return back to their homes at the moment. So they're living on aid incomes, and it's very tough conditions. And the scale of this detainment is quite striking in the come. I visited in neno which is close to moso about twenty people came up to tell me members of their family had been detained then hood anything from them for a year and a half or so as long as that. So they've got no idea where they are whether the dead or alive, and a lot of experts have warned that these kind of situation where you build up. This resentment amongst the community that ready spent a lot of time living. Into isis. You encourage them to see the government in a very very negative light dot is sowing the seeds for another confrontation between these kinds of communities on the Iraqi state in the future. Okay. Thank you, very well. It's clear that the war against ISIS may be coming to an end. But the consequences of that war are going to be with the people of Syria and Iraq and indeed with the rest of the world for a long time to come."