Tuesday. 28.03.2023

Government brings women and children from al-Hol camp to Finland

Three families "escaped" via Turkey and received assistance and documents from the Finnish Embassy in Ankara, according to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
A Woman in Al-Hol Camp, Syria. Photo: Y. Boechat (VOA).

A woman in Al-Hol camp (Syria), in October 2019. Photo: Y Boechat (VOA).

Three families from the al-Hol camp arrived from Turkey to Finland on Sunday afternoon.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced they are women and "children under ten years of age" who were interned and "escaped" from the camp in spring. In al-Hol (Syria) live around 70,000 people displaced from the territories previously controlled by the so-called Islamic State.

The three families received assistance from the Finnish Embassy in Ankara, the government said in a press release. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has "consistently recommended that no one try to leave the camp in the war zone on their own," the release remarked.

However, the government assisted those children and their guardians in accordance with the Consular Services Act. The families have been granted travel documents at the Embassy of Ankara and their return to Finland was "arranged in cooperation with the Turkish authorities."

Criminal investigations

The authorities have received the children and adults arriving in Finland. The Ministry says that any questions concerning child welfare, health checks, quarantine arrangements and possible criminal investigations in relation with their links to the Islamic State "will be answered by the competent authorities in Finland."

Any personal data concerning the identities of the children or their mothers, or all details of the official activities related to the case have not been disclosed.

The government emphasized that all Finnish citizens have the right to return to the country. And "it is the duty of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish embassies abroad to provide the essential official services, such as travel documents, to enable return to Finland."

30 women and 10 children

A total of 30 Finnish children and 10 Finnish mothers have been held in the al-Hol camp. Some of them still remain in there. In December 2019, other two orphaned children of Finnish descent were taken to Finland through Iraq.

On 19 December 2019, the Finnish government issued a resolution on the repatriation of Finnish children from the al-Hol camp. The competent authority in this matter is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

According to the government, it has not been possible to proceed with the planned repatriation because the local authorities managing the camp have temporarily suspended cooperation due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs stressed that "public authorities have a constitutional obligation to repatriate the children in the camp, insofar as this is possible."

The Special Representative appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs directs both the activities of the authorities and the cooperation between the authorities, and makes the repatriation decisions under Finnish law.

"This work will continue as long as Finnish children remain in an emergency," the government says.

Government brings women and children from al-Hol camp to Finland