COPENHAGEN – A grandfather has brought his seven orphaned grandchildren to Sweden after rescuing them from a refugee camp in Syria.
Patricio Galvez arrived in Gothenburg on Wednesday with the children, aged one to eight, a month after traveling to al-Hol camp in eastern Syria.
His daughter Amanda Gonzalez and husband Michael Skråmo were both killed after leaving Sweden to join the Islamic State terror group.
Galvez’s grandchildren were taken to the refugee camp at the end of March, after the fall of the Syrian town Al Baghuz, the last bastion of IS’s caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq.
“The trip has gone well, they have been calm, now the police will come to look for us and they will take us to the social services offices,” the 50-year-old told Swedish public television SVT at Gothenburg airport.
He said that his grandchildren were “very happy” and shouted with joy when they returned to Gothenburg, where the older ones had lived with their parents.
Galvez’s story has received a lot of attention in the Swedish media and provoked an intense political debate about the need to rescue the 60 to 80 children of Swedish origin, orphans of jihadists, who are in Syrian camps.
Kurdish authorities that control the area authorized the transfer of Galvez’s grandchildren to Iraq last week to meet with their grandfather, undergo medical examinations and perform the final bureaucratic procedures, after a negotiation with Sweden.
The Swedish government was initially reluctant to act but ended up modifying its position, although stressing that each case should be treated individually.
“They are cowards who do not respect the international convention on the rights of children, today it is not about passports or consular documents, it is a humanitarian action,” Galvez told EFE last month in the face of initial reluctance from Stockholm.
Galvez, a Chilean resident in Sweden for 30 years, lamented the difficulties of movement and communication in the area, the lack of help and the poor physical condition of several of his grandchildren.
Gonzalez, a Swedish national, and Skråmo, Norwegian-Swedish, were both converts to Islam.
They traveled to Turkey on vacation in 2014 with the four children they had at the time and from there went to Syria to join IS.
Skråmo was known for his videos inviting others to join to IS and commit attacks in Sweden.