Finland to repatriate ISIS children 'as soon as possible'

Like many European countries, Finland faces a decision over whether to bring home citizens with ISIS links who are being held at a camp in Syria

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press at the end of an EU summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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Finland will try to repatriate children of Finnish mothers who travelled to Syria to join ISIS "as soon as possible", Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Monday.

Finland is one of a number of European Union member states facing a decision over whether to bring home citizens with ISIS links who are at Al Hol displacement camp in north-eastern Syria.

More than 30 children born to 11 Finnish women are at the camp, which is controlled by Kurds, Finnish media said

The fate of the mothers has caused divisions in Finland's five-party coalition government that took office last week.

The Centre Party, a coalition ally of Ms Marin's Social Democrats, is opposed to letting the wives of ISIS fighters back into the country but supports the repatriation of their children.

The Centre Party is worried by the rise in the polls of the opposition nationalist Finns Party, which says repatriating ISIS detainees could endanger Finland's security.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute in the coalition, Ms Marin said the government had decided each case should be judged on its own merits.

"The aim of the authorities' actions is to protect the interests of the child in all circumstances," Ms Marin said, leaving the door open for the repatriation of some of the mothers with their children.

"There is no obligation to assist adults who went to the region of their own accord."

Repatriating children without their mothers is unlikely to happen as Syrian Kurdish forces, who control the territory that includes Al Hol, oppose separating children from their mothers.

Mr Marin's government faces questioning on the issue in parliament on Tuesday.