Finnish authorities preparing to receive children from al-Hol camp

The public authorities are preparing to repatriate two Finnish children from the Syrian al-Hol camp. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will provide detailed information once the children are safe and in the care of the Finnish authorities. Information on their arrival in Finland will be communicated at the earliest opportunity.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will not publish any information on the children in order to ensure their privacy and security. Neither will it communicate details about measures carried out by the authorities abroad. No information will be provided about the return route or method. There will be no photo opportunity.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for actions related to assisting returnees while in Syria and during the journey to Finland. The Ministry of the Interior and the police are coordinating support and security measures related to the returnees. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for legislation on child protection and healthcare. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is coordinating  healthcare and social welfare services for the returnees. The municipal authorities are responsible for child protection support measures and decision-making as well as children’s healthcare. On 19 December 2019 the Government issued a resolution concerning the repatriation of Finnish children from the refugee camp in al-Hol.

The aim is to ensure integration of returnees

The various authorities involved are working closely together across sectors. For security reasons, however, they are not releasing any detailed information on their plans. The situation of returnees, the necessary support measures and security aspects will be assessed individually. The priority is to provide children with the immediate and longer-term support they need.

“We want to ensure that Finland is a safe country in the future too. This is why our aim is to help these children and any other returnees to integrate into Finnish society. To this end, the authorities will work in close cooperation. Our actions will not be limited to the present; they will need to be continued for many years in the case of some individuals,” says Permanent Secretary Ilkka Salmi from the Ministry of the Interior.

Leading a normal life in a safe environment most important for the children

Children who have returned to Finland will be given a health check and a referral to child protection services. In order to ensure privacy and security, the municipality in which individual returnees are staying or may live in the future will not be disclosed. The children have been living in difficult conditions, and need to be protected from the public eye.

“The children are likely to be traumatised in different ways, so they will need to be supported in various ways. We will monitor their situation and support their development on a long-term basis,” says Permanent Secretary Kirsi Varhila from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Inquiries:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs: Pekka Shemeikka, Acting Director, Unit for Communications on Current Affairs, tel. +358 50 311 23 61
Ministry of the Interior: Tarja Mankkinen, Head of Development, tel. +358 295 488370
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: Kirsi Varhila, Permanent Secretary, tel. +358 295 163 338

Further information on support measures for returnees from Syria: https://intermin.fi/poliisiasiat/vakivaltainen radicalisation/returnees

Further information on the preparedness of healthcare and social welfare services: https://stm.fi/varautuminen-syyriasta-palaavien-auttamiseen