Migrant Tales (March 13, 2012): Stateless persons do not have the right to open a bank account in Finland

by , under Enrique

Here is a pretty odd case that I encountered Monday (March 12) when I went to Nordea bank in Mikkeli to open an account for a stateless person.  After a few questions, the bank employee said that the person needs a valid passport to open an account at that bank. But if on that passport it reads ”his/her identity cannot be confirmed,” the person can never open an account at Nordea.

I asked the Nordea employee what could be done.

“Why don’t you go to OP bank,” she said. “I’ve read in Länsi-Savo [the local paper] that such persons can open accounts at that bank.”

Surprised by what I was hearing, I asked the bank employee if she was serious.

“Why do they [OP bank] have one set of rules and you have another?” I asked. “Don’t you think it is pretty incredible that you are sending a potential client to the competition?”

When I asked JusticeDemon about what happened, he said that there is a clear administrative problem over what counts as proof of identity and over the  implementation of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (Accession by Finland on 10 October 1968).

One point of that Convention is Article 27 (Identity papers), which states, “The Contracting States shall issue identity papers to any stateless person in their territory who does not possess a valid travel document.”

According to the Ombudsman for Minorities, an identity card issued by the police should count as valid identification just like a passport.

Some believe that the decision by the banks to not allow a stateless person to open a bank account as arbitrary.

There is not much a person from a war-torn country can do if he or she is stateless. Who’s to blame? The refugee? The failed state? The bank(s)? Or authorities regulating the bank sector?

Whatever the case, it sure isn’t the fault of the stateless person.

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