Government to repatriate al-Hol children “as soon as possible”

The government faces a debate on Tuesday afternoon into its handling of the whole al-Hol situation.

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File picture of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), Helsinki 10th December 2019 / Credit: Lauri Heikkinen, VNK

The Finnish government says it has an “unequivocal and common resolve to repatriate children” from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria “as soon as possible.”

The government released guidelines late Monday night about what to do with the estimated ten Isis-linked women and their 30 children at the Kurdish-held camp.

The guidelines stress that authorities will seek to act within Finnish and international laws, and within the Constitution – but that repatriation decisions will be taken by Foreign Ministry officials on a case-by-case basis.

There’s been at least broad agreement among coalition partners, despite some individual MPs particularly from the Centre Party who positioned themselves strongly against repatriating the women, in recent days.

Left Alliance leader Li Andersson says “it is possible that mothers will also be repatriated, but any solution will be based on the discretion of the authorities, and the assessments of the best interests of the children.”

Meanwhile Mikko Kärnä (Centre) says to the opposition that “none of the mothers will come to Finland unless she has clean papers from the security police” asking whether SUPO’s investigations would be enough to satisfy the government’s opponents.

The possible fate of the mothers was addressed in the guidelines released by the government which say there is “no obligation to assist adults who have entered the area voluntarily” and that “competent authorities in Finland will investigate and assess any criminal liability.”

This potentially leaves the door open for women who are cleared by security police to return to Finland, and for women to be brought back and subsequently face criminal charges.

The Kurdish authorities who run al-Hol camp have previously said foreign children cannot be separated from their mothers.