Recent developments in northern Syria, following the Turkish military offensive, shattered the last illusions of fragile stability in the region. For European governments, now concerned about the intentions and whereabouts of their fighters detained in the region, in light of the reported escapes from the Ain Issa camp and insecurity in other facilities, this is a stark reminder that problems do not go away with time – they only get worse.
Kurdish officials have regularly mentioned that they were holding some 12,000 suspected ISIS fighters, including some 800 Europeans. However, these numbers were always difficult to verify. The information was fragmented and sometimes contradictory. There was no transparency on nationalities, or on the ratio of children to adults. According to new figures compiled by the Egmont Institute, the number of European foreign fighters detained in northern Syria would be at least around 430, together with at least 700 European children.