President Sauli Niinistö’s announcement about the fate of the al-Hol Finns in Syria will most likely be the government’s

by , under Enrique Tessieri

President Sauli Niinistö announced Sunday that Finland must help the Finnish children in the al-Hol camp in Syria but not the mothers.

What does this mean in practice? It suggests that Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government will take the same line as Niinistö.

One of the interesting matters to ask about the whole affair is why it is such a hot issue? What roles do prejudice and anti-Muslim sentiment play in the debate?

Read the full statement (in Finnish) here.

If the president and the government see eye to eye on the matter, what does it imply for the mothers? What about those who don’t want to be separated from their children? Does it mean that both mother and child will remain in Syria in squalid conditions?

The handling of the whole al-Hol matter by the government will weaken its credibility further. A president and a government that is ready to throw its citizens to the dogs cannot command a lot of respect from people who take human rights seriously.

If the government is having such a difficult time agreeing on how to help some 10 women and 30 children, what does it mean to government plans to strengthen human rights and improve the legal situation of asylum seekers?

A while back, President Niinistö suggested that Finland’s policy concerning the women and children in al-Hol should be similar to the other Nordic nations, which only grant assistance to children, not their mothers.

Even if Niinistö turns to the other Nordic nations for policy guidance, he forgets to tell us about the anti-Muslim sentiment in Norway and that the country is ruled by the Conservative Party and Islmophobic Progress Party. Even in Denmark, where the Social Democrats won the elections, Islamophobic sentiment is the highest of all the Nordic countries.

In Sweden, which has always been an example of a welcoming nation to migrants and refugees, is having second thoughts as the shadow of the Sweden Democrats grows.

I am certain that if President Tarja Halonen (2000-2012) were in office, the government’s response to the al-Hol Finns would be different and more in line with these people’s human rights.

President Niinistö’s announcement concerning the Finns in al-Hol should not come to any surprise. His past comments and views about migration and cultural diversity are in line with what he said.

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