President, Helsinki mayor weigh in on al-Hol refugee camp case

The case of Isis-linked Finnish women and their children held at a refugee camp is already causing problems for the new government.

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File picture of President Niinistö / Credit: Roni Rekomaa, TPK

President Sauli Niinistö says the new Finnish government – sworn in on Tuesday – should consider making a clear political decision about the fate of Finns at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The president made the comments through his office to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

Previously, government parties have been reluctant to make a decision about what to do with the women, linked to Isis fighters, and their children: whether to plan to bring them back to Finland or not.

Politicians clearly think whichever decision they make will be politically damaging and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has been caught in a week of media stories about what he knew, and what he said to officials, about any official planning around the Finns at al-Hol.

The president’s intervention comes as the Finns Party lodges an interpolation in parliament – essentially a vote of no confidence – in the new government over the issue.

And Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) added to the political pressure by also calling on the government to make a clear decision on repatriating he Isis-linked Finnish women and their children from the Kurdish-held camp.

“Helsinki bears the main responsibility for the practical measures if repatriation is to take place” Vapaavuori writes on Twitter.

Pekka Haavisto is scheduled to hold a press conference in Helsinki at 16:00 on Wednesday afternoon to address the al-Hol issues. You can follow the event live at this link.