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Foreign Ministry: Swift repatriation lowers risk of radicalisation

Finland says it will continue working to bring home Finnish citizens still living in a Syrian detention camp.

Jussi Tanner, Finland's envoy tasked with repatriating children from Al-Hol, speaks at a press conference on Sunday 20 December 2020. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The Foreign Ministry on Sunday evacuated six Finnish children and two mothers from the al-Hol displacement camp. However some 15 kids and five mothers still remain interned in the camp housing women and children captured after the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria.

Foreign ministry special representative Jussi Tanner on Sunday said it was important that children displaced at al-Hol return to Finland sooner rather than later, noting that another scenario was that these individuals return five to fifteen years from now.

“Finnish citizens will in any event have the possibility of returning to Finland. Coming back to Finland would anyway happen when they’re able to leave the camp,” he said at a Foreign Ministry press conference on Sunday.

The median age of the repatriated kids is between five and six.

Tanner reiterated that Finnish authorities have a legal obligation to bring children home from al-Hol as Finland could not guarantee that their basic rights were being met in the camp. He said Finland has not forgotten about the children still living in the camp and that efforts would continue to repatriate them.

“It’s already taken too long to repatriate these kids now. It shouldn't have taken so long,” Tanner said.

Security considerations

Speaking at Sunday’s press conference, Tarja Mankkinen, who works with the Interior Ministry’s anti-radicalisation unit, said officials would investigate whether there was reason to suspect the returnees were complicit in any crimes.

National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo on Sunday said the returnees posed a security threat to Finland. However Tanner said he was not aware of the repatriated individuals presenting any type of threat that would have prevented their evacuation from al-Hol.

Tanner said he based this assessment on information from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo).