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Marin government facing opposition call for no-confidence vote

Opposition parties are challenging the new cabinet over repatriation of Finns from Syria's al-Hol refugee camp.

Ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto ulkoasiainvaliokunnan kuultavana eduskunnassa Helsingissä 3. joulukuuta 2019.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto is at the centre of the storm over repatriation of Finnish citizens from Syria. Image: Seppo Samuli / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Finland's new five-party coalition government, headed by SDP Prime Minister Sanna Marin, hit its first serious bump on Wednesday when opposition parties in parliament filed a motion leading to a vote of no-confidence over the repatriation of Finnish citizens currently in the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The motion, initiated by the Finns Party, gained the backing of the Christian Democrats late Tuesday and of the National Coalition Party (NCP) on Wednesday morning. It is also being supported by the sole MP of the Movement Now (Liike nyt) group.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, opposition Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho questioned whether Finland has an obligation to aid the women and children of Isis fighters. He did concede, however, that Finnish citizens always have the right to return to the country.

"This is a question of the adult women. They are a concrete security risk to Finland. Once back in Finland they could continue their terrorist activities," Halla-aho stated.

Halla-aho added that he wants to know if Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has supplied accurate information on the issue.

"Recently we've seen a disconcerting cat and mouse game. In terms of parliamentary oversight, the situation has been unbearable," said Halla-aho. "Are Isis families being brought to Finland? Have parliament and the media been misled?"

Backing from NCP

The second main opposition party, the NCP decided Wednesday to back a vote of no-confidence in the government. Its parliamentary group leader, MP Kai Mykkänen challenged the new prime minister, Sanna Marin, to shoulder responsibility.

"You cannot avoid responsibility. Hopefully the government understands now that this is a serious matter," said Mykkänen.

"There is now great uncertainty whether or not the government has made a political decision and issued a mandate to repatriate Finnish citizens who took part in the operations of the Isis caliphate," Kai Mykkänen stated in parliament.

The leader of the Christian Democratic Party's parliamentary group, Päivi Räsänen, echoed a Finnish Security Intelligence Service evaluation that the women in the al-Hol camp would be a security risk. Räsänen did say she would be ready to help the children, though.

"However, a clear political decision must be made, without hiding behind the backs of civil servants," Räsänen continued.

The NCP's Mykkänen was also in favour of aiding the children, if a way can be found to do so without compromising security.

According to Mykkänen the government's statements on the issue have been evasive and those by Foreign Minister Haavisto have been contradictory.

The NCP's position is that a political decision by the government is required if Finnish citizens in the al-Hol camp are to be actively assisted in returning to the country.

"If this does not conform to the normal operations based on the law on consular services, but rather on exceptional action, then of course the government must make a political decision. It is extremely corny that apparently an effort has been made to pressure a foreign ministry official to act illegally, without the government's mandate," said Mykkänen.

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