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HomeFinlandMinistry: No Plans to Repatriate Remaining Finnish Children From Al-Hol Camp

Ministry: No Plans to Repatriate Remaining Finnish Children From Al-Hol Camp


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The Finnish Foreign Ministry says it has no plans to try to repatriate the remaining Finnish children from the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria. A senior ministry official told Yle on Saturday that the primary reason is that the children’s mothers refuse to cooperate with Finnish authorities. Most of them are relatives of IS combatants.

There are still about 10 Finns in the camp, most of them children. So far, 26 children and nine adults have been voluntarily repatriated from the camp to Finland.

The camp, located in a conflict zone near the Iraqi border, is controlled by an armed militant group that does not allow children to be separated from their guardians.

“At the moment, there is no situation in sight that would allow the repatriation of children,” said Jussi Tanner, Director General of Consular Services at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Tanner, there are three reasons for the situation.

“Frankly, the biggest and most important reason is that the mothers of the children refuse any cooperation with Finnish authorities,” he said, adding that “the camp is controlled by a non-state entity, an armed group, which does not allow children to be separated from their guardians.”

Retrieving the children, he said, could only in practical terms be carried out “in the middle of the night by masked armed with threats of violence”.

“Such a separation of a child from their parents would violate the child’s rights so blatantly that we, the Finnish authorities, would immediately be in legal trouble. We couldn’t even attempt such a thing,” Tanner said.

The Finnish children and their mothers have been in harsh conditions in the al-Holi camp for four and a half years.

During these years, hundreds of children have died in the camp.

“Many Finnish children have also had several near misses. Especially in the beginning, the children were in very poor condition,” Tanner said.

One mother suspected of human trafficking

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been conducting a preliminary investigation related to the mothers who returned from the al-Holi camp.

Police are considering whether some mothers should be investigated for terrorist offences. The preliminary investigation is still in progress.

Actual criminal investigations have been launched against two mothers, but one of the cases has been closed.

At the moment, the police suspect one mother of human trafficking for taking her minor child to conditions such as that in the al-Hol camp.

She denies the charges, according to detective superintendent Risto Lohiof the NBI.

“Serious, fundamental rights violations”

Last October, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ruled that Finland had violated the children’s rights because they had to live in life-threatening conditions in al-Hol for years.

“The Finnish children, like all other children in the camp, are subject to serious fundamental rights violations. They have no access to normal, decent health care, and virtually no education,” said Tanner.

He reiterated that Finland would remove the children from the camp if it were possible.

“Everything has been done, but unfortunately it has not been enough to get all the Finnish children out of there yet. It’s quite frustrating that the years pass and these children are still there,” he added.

Source: Yle


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