Around 80 Finnish citizens have travelled to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State, and now the government is considering allowing those who return to skip housing queues to help them ‘reintegrate’ into society.
Finland’s Interior Ministry has also called on local governments to support returning Islamic State militants in getting jobs, Ilta-Sanomat reports.
The newspaper noted that the proposal was highly controversial and could even lead to returning jihadists committing violence, including terrorism, in Finland. The ministry acknowledged the problem but said that it was up to social workers to consider the practicalities.
The city of Vantaa agreed with the ministry proposal saying that the current welfare system has no provisions for those returning from military battlefields. Anna Cantell-Forsbom, the head of the Vantaa family service department, said: “I believe that if reintegration into society is considered one of the best mechanisms against radicalisation, then an apartment, work training are of paramount importance.”
Ms. Cantell-Forsbom said that because the returning fighters were such a danger, they should be housed as soon as possible adding: “Of course, other support should be provided as well. An apartment alone does not solve anything. Other vital aspects should also be considered.”
Tarja Mankkinen, development director of the Interior Ministry, noted the first priority would be to see whether or not defectors had been directly involved in Islamic State atrocities before giving them benefits.
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The Finnish proposal mirrors what many Swedish municipalities have called for in recent months. The city of Lund, amongst others, has backed a report from the National Coordination Against Violent Extremism which advocates giving jihadists housing, debt relief, and access to other social programmes.
Sweden has also refused to automatically take away the children of returning Islamic State fighters even if they took them to Iraq or Syria saying that not all the children may have experienced trauma.