Finland’s immigration and asylum policy is only a momentary Pyrrhic victory

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The picture below isn’t from Gaza or some war-torn region but of the playground of the Konnunsuo immigration removal center in Joutseno, Finland, a country that claims to be proud of its social achievements and respect for human rights. 

The view is the one that a family with seven children had for over a month of the playground rudely toward by high walls and barbwire.

But there is good news: The family from Karbala, Iraq, was freed from detention Friday and are now staying at an asylum reception center in Turku awaiting a decision on new asylum request, according to YLE.

This is not a picture of a prison in Gaza but where children are detained for over a month in Finland. YLE

Four years ago, Zuzeeko’s blog brought attention to an Amnesty International campaign to stop the detention of unaccompanied minors in Finland. Even if the seven Iraqi children are accompanied by their parents, the  International Convention on the Rights of the Child – to which Finland is party – outlaws the detention of children, unless as a last resort and for the shortest possible time (see article 37[b]).

We can ask if over a month in detention is “the shortest possible time” and why Finland permits children to be detained in immigration removal centers in the first place?

We could cite Interior Minister Paula Risikko and the right-wing government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, which tell us over and over again that Finland’s immigration must be tough on asylum seekers because we don’t want to lure anymore of them to the country.

Imagine the logic behind such an argument and what kind of a blow it is to our values and sense of justice.

The best that our tightened immigration policy can only offer is a temporary Pyrrhic victory. Thus we’ll sever the pull factors but at the cost of our values and credibility. Since this policy isn’t sensible, it won’t last forever.

For Finland to claim that it is a country based on justice and social equality after the actions of the government and complacent silence against the rise of racism and hate speech is deceptive to say the least. How can you claim to defend human rights if you lock up children for over a month?


Me olemme Joutsen(ossa). Ovet kiinni…ja ikkunat kiinni. Jos tarvitsemme asia paina ovikelloa…sitten poliisi tule. Ja siellä on kamera. Ja emme osamme ulos. We are in Joutseno. Door closes..and windows are closed. If we need something we press the doorbell…then the police comes. And there’s a camera. And we don’t know how to go outside. Source: Iltalehti.

While there are many good people in Finland who are speaking out against our unfair immigration policy based in great part in propping up a sinking populist anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, it would be naive to only blame the PS for our draconian immigration policy and suspicion of cultural diversity.

But instead of pointing out the deficiencies and perils that our immigration policy bring, we should look at the situation as an opportune moment to call out social ills like racism, bigotry and anti-cultural diversity that Finland has denied and hid under the rug for so long.

For this we have to be thankful for the those tens of thousands of asylum seekers who came to Finland in hope of finding refuge and a brighter future but found too many times the cold shoulder of the authorities.

We at Migrant Tales salute you and encourage you on with your struggle for justice in a country that has temporarily lost its way and forgotten its own values.

The official translation to Finnish of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party is the Finns Party. In our opinion, it is not only a horrible translation, but one that is misguided. A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Such terms like the Finns Party of True Finns promote as well in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and thereafter the acronym PS.

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