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Norway's right-wing party quits coalition in protest over repatriation of alleged Daesh bride

Siv Jensen, Progress leader and Norway’s finance minister
Siv Jensen, Progress leader and Norway’s finance minister on 27 January 2015 [Fremskrittpartiet/Flickr]

Norway's right-wing, anti-immigration party has quit the country's coalition government in protest over a cabinet decision to repatriate a woman suspected of belonging to Daesh so that her sick five-year-old son could receive medical treatment.

The unnamed 29-year-old women, who denies allegations she was a member of Daesh, reportedly married two members of the militant group since leaving Norway for Syria in 2013.

Her request to return triggered a heated debate within the country. The populist Progress Party, a key member of the coalition government since 2013, was strongly against her repatriation.

Siv Jensen, Progress leader and Norway's finance minister, said in a press conference yesterday: "We do not compromise with people who have voluntarily joined terrorist organisations. It was the last straw."

"I brought us into government, and I'm now bringing the party out," Jensen continued, adding that she thought Prime Minister Erna Solberg was the right person to lead the country and that she would maintain a close dialogue with her in the future.

READ: Two Belgian women, renouncing Daesh, fear kids will never go home

Explaining the government's decision to repatriate the women along with her two children, Solberg said: "We had to pick up the sick child, and also take in the mother, even if we did not want to initially."

Solberg revealed that the government originally wanted to repatriate just the sick child 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."

It's unclear whether the Progress Party's resignation is solely down to this decision or its declining support in the country. According to the Financial Times, Progress has struggled in the polls in recent years as immigration to Norway fell, robbing it of one of its main drivers of popularity.

Compromises the party has made in government is also said to have weakened the party's appeal with some of its anti-establishment supporters.

This row has resurfaced Europe's dilemma over returning Daesh fighters. By the end of 2018 about 12,300 foreigners are said to have been detained in camps in Syria. Some estimates include more than 8,700 children from more than 40 countries on the list.

In a similar controversy, British teenager Shamima Begum, who joined Daesh in 2015, had her citizenship revoked despite pleading with the government to allow her to return to the UK. In March her newborn son died in a Syrian camp igniting strong condemnation from the opposition.

READ: Syria truce fails as Idlib civilians killed daily

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