CNN  — 

Eight Australian children have been rescued from a refugee camp in Syria and are in the care of the Australian government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday.

The young people aged between 2 and 18 – the children and grandchildren of ISIS fighters – crossed the Syrian border into an unnamed Middle Eastern country on Sunday, Australian national broadcaster ABC reported.

The rescue comes after the collapse of ISIS’s caliphate in Syria, leaving thousands of ISIS affiliates – many of whom are women and children – in make-shift camps.

Morrison said the eight rescued were now in the care of Australian government officials.

“The fact that parents put their children into harm’s way by taking them into a war zone was a despicable act,” he said in a statement sent to CNN. “However, children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents.”

Veiled women, living in al-Hol camp which houses relatives of ISIS group members, walk in the camp in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019.

Morrison said the decision to repatriate the children – who will be taken to Australia – was not taken lightly, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials had supported the efforts.

“As I have said repeatedly, my government would not allow any Australian to be put at risk,” he said. “Australia’s national security and the safety of our people and personnel have always been our most important considerations in this matter.”

When CNN asked for more details on the children involved, the Prime Minister’s office said he was not able to comment on individual cases.

More foreigners affected

There are at least 50 other Australian children and women in camps in northeast Syria, including many who are sick and injured, according to non-profit Save the Children, which is working in several camps in northeast Syria.

Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds commended the Australian government for bringing the eight children home – but he urged them to help repatriate the other children too.

“They are innocent victims of war and we’re pleased they will soon be reunited with their families back home to Australia,” he said in a statement.

“These children have had their childhoods taken away from them, facing horrors and atrocities that are difficult to imagine.”

Countries around the world have been struggling with how to handle thee return of citizens who left to join ISIS.

According to United States officials, there are around 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters currently detained by US-backed forces in Syria – a small number of whom claim to be US citizens.

There are also an additional 60,000 ISIS “affiliates” – family members who have either chosen to stay, or were coerced to stay – with around 15% of them from countries other than Syria or Iraq. Many of them are in make-shift camps that aren’t built to house such large numbers for an extended period of time.

Senior US defense officials have long encouraged countries to repatriate their citizens. Many countries, including European allies, are reluctant to do so because of the difficulty of prosecuting suspected ISIS members based on evidence collected on the battlefield.

One of the most high profile cases involves Shamima Begum, who left London to join ISIS in Syria when she was 15. She hit headlines this year after the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid decided to revoke her British citizenship.