Centre supports criminalising foreign fighters

The Centre party would like to see people who travel abroad to fight for extremist groups face prosecution when they return. The party adopted a position paper on the matter at a meeting of the party board in Mikkeli on Sunday.

Terroristijärjestö Isisin lippu Irakissa 25. kesäkuuta 2014. Image: Mohammed Al-Mosuli / EPA

People who leave Finland to fight for ISIS or other extremist groups may face prosecution on their return, if a new proposal from the Centre party gains support. The party’s position on the recent attacks in Paris states that “leaving to fight abroad should be criminalized and recruitment to extremist groups should be stopped”.

The paper also expresses support for the victims of the Paris attacks and their relatives. The party board emphasised that refugees fleeing the Middle East are leaving to escape extremist violence, and that most of them have the best intentions in coming to Europe.

As a percentage of the Muslim population, more Finnish Muslims have left to fight in Syria than Muslims from 25 other countries—although the absolute numbers remain small. Some 70 Finns are believed to have left to fight with ISIS.

The Centre party’s board was gathered over the weekend in the eastern town of Mikkeli, with ministers grilled by party officials from across the country.

In his speech to the meeting on Saturday, Prime Minister and Centre leader Juha Sipilä defended his plan for reform of health and social care as a realisation of long-standing Centre party policy. The 18 regions he has proposed correspond to a 1962 proposal from the party, he told delegates.

The proposal has been criticised apparently for ignoring advice from ministerial advisers to limit the number of regions to 12 in pursuit of greater efficiency. The reform is expected to produce savings of around 3 billion euros from the social and health care budget.