The Finnish Government continued on Sunday with the repatriations of Finnish nationals interned in the Syrian refugee camp of Al-Hol.
"On Sunday 20 December 2020, Finland repatriated six Finnish children and two adult mothers from north-east Syria. The persons are now in the care of competent Finnish authorities," the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a press release.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs organized the repatriation in cooperation with German authorities. In the same operation, Germany repatriated German children and their mothers.
"Under section 22 of the Constitution of Finland, Finnish public authorities are obligated to safeguard the basic rights of the Finnish children interned in the camps insofar as this is possible. The basic rights of the children interned in the Al-Hol camps can be safeguarded only by repatriating them to Finland," the Ministry said.
"The mothers of the children were repatriated together with the children. It is not possible to repatriate only the children. In all actions, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration," added the department headed by Pekka Haavisto.
Investigation, terrorism charges
Jussi Tanner, the Finnish Foreign Ministry's special envoy, told a news conference that "it has taken far too long time to secure the return of these children."
Tanner was on the flight with the repatriated nationals. Finnish police were to investigate if the adults could face any form of charges.
Germany said 3 women and 12 children were repatriated at the weekend.
One of the women was taken into custody upon her arrival at Frankfurt airport on terrorism charges. In March 2015, at the age of 15, the woman is said to have travelled to Syria, joined the the Islamic State, and then married a member of the terrorist militia. The two also kept a Yazidi woman as a slave for a time, prosecutors said.
25 more nationals still waiting
About 15 Finnish children and less than 10 mothers are still interned in the camps in north-east Syria, according to the government.
Altogether, more than 6,000 foreign children and approximately 3,000 foreign mothers, of whom approximately 600 children and 300 women are EU citizens, are still in the camps. About half of the children are younger than 5 years old.
The camps in north-east Syria constitute a long-term security risk. "The longer the children remain in the camps, without protection and education, the harder it will be to counter radical extremism," the Ministry says.