Norwegian citizens who traveled to the Middle East to fight for or support the brutal Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization can’t expect to be brought home again at taxpayer expense. They’ll have to seek consular assistance themselves from where they are, claims Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.
“As the situation is now, we won’t be bringing home any foreign warriors,” Søreide said in an address to the Norwegian Parliament this week. “Norwegian citizens abroad who want consular assistance must contact the foreign service themselves.”
She stressed that all Norwegian citizens have a right to travel into Norway, also foreign fighters and their children. Anyone who set off to fight for IS, however, faces prosecution in Norway, meaning they’re likely to be arrested at the border.
Debate has been swirling this week over the fate of their wives and children. Norwegian women who willingly traveled to Syria or elsewhere to marry IS warriors or otherwise join the cause aren’t getting much if any sympathy, despite pleas for help from both them and at least one attorney representing the family of a Norwegian woman who wants to return to Norway with her two small children.
“They are Norwegian citizens who should get help while abroad,” attorney Bjørn Nærum told state broadcaster NRK this week. He’s been assisting the woman’s family in Norway who also think the government should bring her and her children home. Her father told NRK that his daughter had called him this week to say that she and her children had been taken out of the last IS enclave in Iraq by Iraqi troops, and were likely to be sent to an internment camp for IS women and children in northeastern Syria.
“I understand that this is difficult, but it’s possible (for government officials) to take their hands out of their pockets,” Nærum said. “We haven’t seen any assistance from the Foreign Ministry.”
Søreide agrees the situation is difficult, especially regarding the fate of children born into IS families and now suffering for that. “The return of foreign fighters and their children is a demanding question,” Søreide said. “The situation for Norwegian children is worrisome, but this is an issue where there unfortunately aren’t any simple solutions.”
Søreide told the Parliament that the foreign ministry is following the situation closely, as the last bastions of IS power are toppled. Norway is also following how other countries are handling the situation and is “constantly” considering various measures.
There are believed to be around 30 Norwegian citizens still in IS war zones in Syria and Iraq, but some may be dead. The number is believed to include around 10 women. In addition are an estimated 40 children with ties to Norway who either were born in IS enclaves or taken there by their parents. As many as 100 people with ties to Norway are believed to have traveled to IS-controlled area since 2012.