Norway’s populist party quits coalition due to repatriation of Isis bride

Norway’s anti-immigration Progress party has resigned from the ruling coalition over a cabinet decision to repatriate a woman suspected of belonging to Islamic State from Syria so one of her young children could receive medical treatment.

The departure of the populist, rightwing party means the prime minister, Erna Solberg, no longer has a parliamentary majority, but she said she would stay on at the head of a minority government with her two remaining coalition partners.

The Progress party leader and finance minister, Siv Jensen, told a press conference on Monday that there had been “too many compromises” and it had become too difficult to get her party’s policies adopted by the four-party government.

“I brought us into government, and I’m now bringing the party out,” Jensen said, adding that she nonetheless thought Solberg was the right person to be prime minister and she wanted to maintain a close dialogue with her in the future.

Solberg said the decision to help bring the unnamed 29-year-old woman – who denies allegations she was a member of the Islamist terror group – and her two children back to Norway so her five-year-old son could receive medical treatment was “correct”.

The government had originally wanted to repatriate just the sick child, she said, but could not separate him from his mother. “Our dilemma was therefore whether to bring home a child with his mother, or risk a sick five-year-old dying,” she said. “To me, it was important the boy came home to Norway.”

The Progress party had said it was willing to help the two children return, but tried to block the government from helping any adult seeking to return to Norway after having married a foreign fighter or joined an Islamist group abroad, prompting a national debate about what the foreign ministry called “a difficult consular case”.

The cabinet decided last week to help the woman, who left Norway in 2013 and married twice in Syria, travel home from a Kurdish-controlled detention camp in Syria with her son and three-year-old daughter. She was arrested on her return on Saturday on suspicion of being a member of Isis.

Decisions on whether to allow women with links to Isis to return from Syria have caused controversy across Europe, including in neighbouring Finland, whose newly appointed government recently settled on deciding each case individually.

About 12,300 foreigners were detained in camps in Syria at the end of 2018, according to reports, including more than 8,700 children from more than 40 countries.

Solberg, who now needs to fill a total of seven cabinet posts, thanked the Progress party for its cooperation but said it was “natural” for her Conservative party to move forward with the Liberal and Christian Democratic parties.

Most of Norway’s governments since the 1970s have ruled with a minority and under its constitution the next election cannot be held until September 2021.

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