Finland continues with its policy of repatriating Finnish children and women trapped in Syria, in the camps where thousands of refugees from the territories formerly occupied by the Islamic State are crowded.
According to a statement from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, on Friday 16 July two Finnish children and their mother were repatriated from Roj camp in northeast Syria. All three are Finnish citizens. The children are under school age. They are now in the care of competent Finnish authorities.
The Ministry explained that Finnish authorities have a constitutional obligation to safeguard the fundamental rights of the Finnish children held in the camps as far as possible.
"The only way to safeguard the fundamental rights of children held in northeast Syria is to bring them to Finland," emphasizes the Ministry.
In the past, similar operations for the repatriation of Finnish citizens from the Al-Hol camp have faced internal opposition. Some Finns do not oppose the repatriation of children, but they do refuse that their mothers be repatriated.
"The mother of the two children was also repatriated. It was not possible to repatriate only the children. In all official activities, priority has been given to the best interests of the child" justifies the Ministry.
Other Finns detained
According to government figures, approximately "a dozen Finnish children and a few mothers" remain detained in the camps in Syria.
Approximately 900 EU citizens – 600 children and 300 women – are still in the camps. Nearly 62,000 people are currently kept in the camps: approximately 59,000 in Al-Hol camp and approximately 2,700 in Roj camp.
Government explains that "the camps in northeast Syria continue to constitute a serious, long-term security risk. The longer the children are kept in the camps without protection and education, the harder it will be to fight violent extremism and radicalisation."
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs intends to repatriate the Finnish children still detained in the camps as soon as possible.
In 2019 and 2020, the Finnish government repatriated 20 children and their mothers from the Al Hol camp in Northern Syria. The cost of these repatriations was approximately 395,000 euros, according to government data.