Nine countries, including Russia, Egypt and Indonesia, have brought back about 200 children. Western governments, including France, have so far demurred, both for legal reasons and for fear of infuriating public opinion, according to experts.
The return of the French children on Friday, therefore, surprised many, including their families. Laurent Nuñez, the junior interior minister, had said on Wednesday that children would not be repatriated in the near future.
Although France’s foreign ministry did not provide an exact number, announcing only the return of “orphan and isolated minors, all aged 5 and less,” three French lawyers who represent French families of ISIS militants said that five children had returned.
That includes Ms. Maninchedda’s three grandchildren, a 5-year-old girl who was held in the same camp, known as al-Hawl, and a 5-year-old boy who was in another camp, also controlled by the Kurds in northern Syria.
Marie Dosé, a lawyer for one family, welcomed their return but argued that French authorities should repatriate all children, not only those who had lost their parents. At least 100 French children are stranded in Iraq and Syria, according to human rights groups.
“France plans to leave some French children, who still have their mother, die of exposure and hunger, while rescuing some others on the pretext that they are orphans,” Ms. Dosé said. “If that’s what France has become, we have fallen very low.”