Finland’s shameful asylum policy should be changed

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Some Finnish politicians from parties like the Swedish People’s Party, Greens and Left Alliance have expressed concern about the government’s ever-tightening asylum policy and a recent decision by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) to deny an Iraqi asylum.

Writes YLE News: “According to the decision, first made public when it was posted on social media Wednesday, the [Iraqi] man was able to successfully prove to the Finnish Immigration Service that his home in Mosul had been bombed, the army had tortured him and that ISIS was persecuting him.”

Even if some may seem surprised by the latter, it’s “business as usual” considering that the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party are calling the immigration policy shots in government.

The PS shares power in government with the Center Party and National Coalition Party (NCP). In exchange for its support for the Center Party’s and NCP’s austerity policies, the PS has been given a virtual free hand to tighten immigration policy as it sees fit. As long as the PS remains in government the plight of migrants and minorities in Finland will worsen.

Tighter family reunification laws is one sad example of the latter never mind the party’s near-constant racist comments that continue to poison the atmosphere for migrants and minorities in this country.

One question that tighter immigration policy raises is if they are constitutional. According to Section 6 of the Finnish Constitution guarantees that “everyone is equal before the law.” Moreover, the EU Convention of Human Rights (Article 8) and Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human rights guarantees that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Professor of Public International Law Martin Scheinin also criticized the decision, saying that he has reason to believe that Finland’s tougher asylum policy may be in conflict with the country’s constitution.

Näyttökuva 2016-7-31 kello 10.20.34
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Even if some Finns correctly point out that we were the first country to grant women the right to vote in 1906, we were the last country in Europe together with Romania to grant Jews political rights in 1917.

Finland had passed its first Aliens Act in 1983. Before that, immigrants could be detained and deported at will by the police, could not own land and had to have special permission to own more than 20% of a company, according to the Restricting Act of 1939 that was overturned in 1992.

Considering the fact that over 1.2 million Finns emigrated between 1860 and 1999, it is surprising that some circles in Finland are hostile to foreigners and see them as “a threat” to society.

The 32,500 asylum seekers that came to Finland in 2015 and the rise of the PS and the silence of major parties like the Center Party and NCP to xenophobia are a case in point.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a Brussels-base NGO, published a shadow report on Afrophobia earlier this year. It made the following recommendations that could improve the plight of migrants and minorities in this country:

  • Establish an equality body responsible for dealing with discrimination cases within employment.
  • Greater promotion of cultural diversity at schools is needed to better reflect the diversity of Finland in the 21st century.
  • A plan needs to be developed and implemented to increase the ethnic diversity of the workforce in the public sector in particular within the non-discrimination Ombudsman’s office and the police service.
  • Finish Law should integrate a direct provision for hate crimes to ensure that hate crimes are adequately recognized and punished as such.
  • Government agencies and NGOs must improve their monitoring of discrimination in all areas and especially in employment.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”