Three Isis-linked Finnish families arrive from al-Hol refugee camp

The group apparently made their own way to the Finnish Embassy in Ankara and sought consular assistance with travel documents.

Map showing location of al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria / Credit: Google Maps

Three Finnish families, women and children, arrived in Finland on Sunday from the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms their arrival wasn’t part of an official repatriation effort, but that they made their own way to the Finnish Embassy in Ankara where they were issued travel documents.

According to the constitution no Finn can be denied a right of entry into the country and the ministry says they paid their own flights back to Helsinki via Minsk.

Around 10 Finnish women and their 30 children have been staying at the al-Hol camp, which has a special annex for Isis-linked families. It is believed the Finnish women were married to Isis fighters.

The ministry says the women and children were assisted “in accordance with the Consular Services Act” and their return to Finland was arranged “in cooperation with the Turkish authorities.”

Reaction to the returning refugees

Finnish authorities have consistently recommended that none of the women or children in al-Hol should try to leave the camp themselves, but the matter of their repatriation has been a divisive political subject.

Foreign MinisterĀ Pekka Haavisto (Green) is facing a parliamentary and police inquiry into his handling of the case, and whether he sidelined a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards the end of 2019.

The Finns Party, the largest opposition party in Parliament, has criticised the return of the women and children.

“The state’s top management conducts covert operations to bring in probable terrorists, hidden from the public eye” writes Finns Party MPĀ Riikka Purra.

Referring to a Friday newspaper interview where Haavisto said any official repatriation operations were on hold for now, Purra says that “This is how Finland operates in a democratic and well-governed country. Ministers are lying, officials are lying, everyone is lying. To bring in people from the horribly violent ISIS movement” she concludes.