Save the Children: Government should speed up al-Hol repatriations

The charity says that the threat of coronavirus means Finland must act to fulfill its international treaty obligations and bring the children and their families back here.

File picture of ICRC water delivery at al-Hol refugee camp, Syria / Credit: ICRC

Save the Children organisation says the government must speed up the evacuation of Finnish children from the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria, due to the coronavirus risk.

The charity says an outbreak of Covid-19 at the sprawling camp, home to tens of thousands of displaced people and 7,000 foreign children, would be impossible to manage.

While most refugees live in the main camp, those with connections to Isis fighters – like the 10 Finnish women and their 30 children – live in an annex to the camp which Save the Children says makes them “even more vulnerable as they receive less help and support.”

Save the Children says countries like Finland should repatriate the children and their families in accordance with their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“At the end of last year, Finland made the right policy to repatriate Finnish children from Syria. However, with the exception of two children repatriated immediately in December, implementation of the decision has not progressed” says Anne Haaranen, from Save the Children.

Background to Finns at al-Hol camp

The situation of Isis-linked Finnish women and their children at the al-Hol refugee camp in northwest Syria has become highly politicized.

In December, the Finnish government said it had an “unequivocal and common resolve to repatriate children” from the camp to Finland “as soon as possible.”

However the government faces political opposition to bringing them back, and foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) is being investigated by a parliamentary committee, and also by the National Bureau of Investigation over his handling of the case.

Last week Haavisto told MTV News that Finns at the camp had not been forgotten by the government.