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Foreign Minister wins confidence vote over al-Hol furore

Pekka Haavisto received majority support from 110 MPs on Wednesday on the issue of the repatriation of Finns from Syria.

Utrikesminister Pekka Haavisto korrigerar glasögonen
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto Image: Lehtikuva
Yle News

Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto received the support of 110 MPs in a confidence vote held in Parliament on Wednesday concerning the repatriation of Finns living in the al-Hol camp in Syria. Out of 200 MPs, 79 MPs voted against while 10 were absent.

Four opposition groups, the Finns Party, the conservative National Coalition Party, the Christian Democrats and Movement Now (Liike nyt) had filed an interpellation over Haavisto’s alleged plan to repatriate Finnish citizens from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The heated debate on this issue began on Tuesday afternoon before talks moved on to next year's budget plans in the evening. The al-Hol issue was back on the agenda after midnight and discussions went on past 3 am on Wednesday morning.

During Tuesday's session, Prime Minister Sanna Marin's government also won its first confidence motion when 105 representatives voted in favour of its four-year programme.

Minister under fire

The foreign minister has been in the firing line over the al-Hol refugee camp in recent weeks. Haavisto had been caught up in a maelstrom over allegations that he wanted to push through a plan to bring the women and children back to Finland, with claims that he sidelined a top ministry official in the process.

The Marin government reached a decision on the al-Hol issue on Monday when it announced 10-point guidelines. It said its primary objective is to help the children and that a decision on the repatriation of each individual will be made on a case-by-case basis.

The guideline added that "there is no obligation to assist adults who have entered the area voluntarily".

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