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Finance Minister pulls Instagram poll on repatriation of Finns at al-Hol refugee camp

The Centre Party chair’s social media post asked whether to evacuate children alone or mothers and children from the camp.

Keskustan puheenjohtaja, valtiovarainministeri Katri Kulmuni Keskustan eduskuntaryhmän kokouksessa Helsingissä 12. joulukuuta
Centre Party chair and finance minister Katri Kulmuni speaks to the media at Parliament on Wednesday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Finance Minister and Centre Party chair Katri Kulmuni has apologised and removed an informal Instagram poll in which she asked respondents whether Finland should repatriate only Finnish children or children and mothers currently living at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The fledgling government lead by Prime Minister Sanna Marin currently faces a confidence vote over Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto’s alleged plans to bring the families back to Finland.

On Friday, Kulmuni took to Twitter to announce that she had removed the straw poll. She apologised for the survey in a second tweet.

"I have indicated the Centre Party's position on the situation at al-Hol. My goal of having a social media discussion about a complex issue failed. I apologise for the poll," she wrote in the follow-up tweet.

In the her first tweet, Kulmuni said that the survey had caused offence and did not work. At the same time, she stressed the importance of a national debate.

"This week we have spoken about the difficult situation of Finns at al-Hol. Yesterday I spoke of the Centre Party’s position on this matter. It is a much-discussed national theme. It is also important to have a national debate and to receive feedback. The IG poll caused offence, it has been removed. It did not work out," she wrote.

Kulmuni’s tweet is followed by a long chain of responses, the majority of which condemned the social media poll.

Kulmuni’s Instagram post caught the attention of the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, whose European media director Andrew Stroehlein described the tweet as "awful", adding that life and death decisions should not be put to a social media referendum.

Kulmuni’s personal stance on the situation of Finnish citizens at the al-Hol camp is that the children should receive the government's assistance but the mothers should not.

Edit: Updated at 1.20pm to indicate that the new government faces a confidence vote on the al-Hol repatriation issue.

Edit: Updated at 3.45pm to add information about Kulmuni's subsequent tweet apologising for the social media poll.

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