First group of 515 people in Al-Hol Refugee Camp exit as part of Syrian Democratic Council’s general amnesty

AL-HOL, Syria — According to a statement from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) 515 people from 120 Syrian families voluntarily left Al-Hol Camp for their homes, taking advantage of the general amnesty granted by the SDC and Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) to those in the camp who hadn’t committed any violent crimes.

The new mechanism for voluntary return is mainly focused on the willingness of the Syrian families to leave the camp after verifying they have a clean criminal record and committed no violent offenses during the occupation of the Islamic State (ISIS).

On Monday, the first batch of Syrian families from Al-Hol Camp left to return home as a part of the program. While previous groups of camp residents have returned to their homes, mostly in and around Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) after agreements and guarantees made between tribal leaders and the DAA, this is the first group of camp residents to take advantage of the DAA’s new policy.

Many of those exiting Al-Hol as a part of the amnesty are returning to their homes in Baghouz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State to fall to the SDF.

At the peak of Al-Hol’s occupancy, some 60,000 people resided in the camp, originally designed to house less than half that amount.

The situation at Al-Hol has deteriorated recently with violent attacks on the rise. Mostly perpetrated by the foreign nationals who were a part of the Islamic State detained in the camp, camp guards and civilians not affiliated with ISIS have been attacked with knives and firearms smuggled into the camp.

As the foreign ISIS detainees slowly get moved to a new, more secure camp designed specifically to rehabilitate members of ISIS, especially young children, attempts to escape the camp have gone up.

“A rise has been detected in escape attempts by foreign ISIS affiliates, with at least three such escape attempts being thwarted [in October],” said a recent report released by the Rojava Information Center.

“Three firearm attacks were also confirmed, resulting in three deaths, all of Iraqi nationals,” the report added.

Despite the challenges and dangers posed by the release of collaborators and low-level members of Islamic State, the gradual emptying of the camp has U.S. approval.

“We see these return and reintegration initiatives for women and the large number of children as positive,” a State Department spokesperson told Voice of America after the initial announcement by the SDC of the amnesty plan. “We have been very clear that the situation at Al-Hol, despite the magnificent efforts of the SDC, is unsustainable.”