Officials said the families were living in eastern Syrian camps such as al-Hawl where health services are close to collapse with 65,000 residents, more than three times its capacity, now registered there. Fabrizio Carboni, the Middle East director for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the organisation had been informed of the Iraqi government’s decision.
He said: “Among the people who reached al-Hawl camp you have a significant number who are of Iraqi origin.
“Figures are not official, but probably we are talking about 20,000 people, including women and children.
“The Iraqi government has expressed its will to bring those people back, but it’s obviously a challenging situation.
“Those people are considered as a security threat, so it means that they will have to go through a screening process.”
Iraq’s position stands in contrast to western countries such as the UK which refuse to allow their nationals to return.
But the women repatriated to Iraq are unlikely to be treated leniently, even if they do not show the defiance that many have demonstrated in videos filmed as they surrender.
Iraqi courts have already sentenced hundreds of women to life terms just for following their husbands into ISIS territory.
Al-Hawl has exploded in size in the past three months as US-led forces attacking the last ISIS strongolds in eastern Syria underestimated the number of people still inside.
A ceasefire to allow non-combatants to flee the town of Baghuz was ordered when it was thought there a few hundred fighters and around 3,000 non-combatants were holed up there.
In reality, 20,000 people streamed out of the war-ravaged enclave in a few days, and they said there were thousands more people hiding in caves and tunnels inside.
Camp administrators admit to being overwhelmed by the unexpectedly large influx of people.
More than 100 children have died on the way to the camp or shortly after arriving or being born there, including the baby son of Shamima Begum, the 19-year-old runaway schoolgirl from Bethnal Green.