'Too dangerous' to pull 4-year-old Canadian orphan out of ISIS camp, Trudeau says
TORONTO -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “too dangerous” to send in Canadian diplomats to remove four-year-old Canadian orphan Amira from the al-Hol detention camp -- after Kurdish authorities confirmed they found the child over the weekend.
In a one-on-one interview with CTV News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, Trudeau said that he was aware of the little girl’s story, but that the safety of Canadians who work in the Middle East needs to be considered.
“Right now we've qualified it as too dangerous for Canadian officials to go into Syria and into those refugee camps,” he said.
It has been almost a year since Amira was discovered wandering alone in the Syrian town of Baghouz after her family -- Canadians who had left the country in 2014 to fight for ISIS -- were killed in an airstrike.
Amira was taken to the detention camp in northeastern Syria where she was living with a surrogate family, in a situation that Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale has previously called “horrendous.”
Life inside the camp is often described as desperate, with lack of water and access to medical care major concerns for the more than 11,000 foreign women and children of ISIS fighters are detained.
It is estimated that at least 33 Canadians women and children are detained in al-Hol and a second nearby camp.
Amira’s uncle and grandparents in Canada have been calling on the Canadian government to rescue the child for months -- using other countries like Sweden, Australia and France as examples of governments who have sent in personnel to extract women and children left behind after the years of war with the caliphate.
The government has previously told Amira’s family that she must undergo a DNA test to prove that she is a Canadian citizen before she can be issued travel papers -- which would take months.
This past summer Amira’s uncle, who wishes to remain anonymous, was determined to go to Syria himself to try to locate her and bring her home, but Kurdish Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Abdulkarim Omar advised him not to travel until her location was confirmed.
This weekend, Kurdish authorities sent a message saying that Amira had finally been located.
“We informed the Canadian authorities about her whereabouts,” Omar said. “The Canadian government is aware of Amira’s situation right now.”
Canada has yet to formally request the child’s release, something her uncle is hopeful will change now that she has finally been located.
“Now that she’s found, we’d hoped immediate action would take place and that she could be home as soon as possible,” Amira’s uncle said.