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Parliamentary committee clears minister over plan to repatriate Finns from al-Hol camp

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto refuted claims that he had sidelined a senior ministry official from the project.

Pekka Haavisto
Pekka Haavisto Image: Photo Edijs / EPA

A majority of MPs on parliament’s foreign affairs committee have voted to clear foreign minister Pekka Haavisto of alleged wrongdoing in a plan to repatriate Finnish nationals currently at a refugee camp in Syria.

On Tuesday morning Haavisto appeared before the committee to explain his ministry’s actions with respect to Finns living at the al-Hol refugee camp. On Monday, the minister revealed that the ministry had been looking at different options for repatriating the wives and children of fighters for the extremist group Isis.

Haavisto refuted allegations reported by the tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat that he had sidelined consular head Pasi Tuominen from the repatriation project. He said that Tuominen will continue in his role, but noted that he had assigned a separate official to handle the al-Hol case.

Committee chair: MPs kept in the dark

After Haavisto delivered his account of events, the committee voted on whether or not to accept the minister’s explanation -- a majority accepted his version of events.

Chair of the foreign affairs committee, Mika Niikko said that the Finns Party held the view that the committee had not been given timely information about the ministry’s efforts to repatriate the Finnish women and children to Finland.

Niikko said that the last time the committee had been briefed on the matter, there was no mention that another civil servant had been assigned to the project. He added that the committee had the impression that people would receive support if they independently sought consular assistance.

The committee chair charged that MPs had been kept in the dark, even as the president and the government had been informed about the project.

Haavisto said that the repatriation project was not a government initiative, but that it originated from official duty as well as a response from the Chancellor of Justice to complaints made about the issue in October.

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