Tarja Halonen, the President of Finland in 2002–2012, has spoken against the forced returns of asylum seekers to conflict-affected countries.

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Finland should suspend the deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers to conflict-affected countries at least until authorities have re-examined the security situations in the countries in question, says President Tarja Halonen.

“A growing number of us are having doubts that the countries are not safe for the deportees,” she wrote in a guest contribution to Helsingin Sanomat.

“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs recommends that Finns do not travel to Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Yet, authorities see no obstacles to returning people who have experienced persecution to these countries.”

Finnish authorities, she said, should visit the countries to familiarise themselves with the local security situations and the authorities receiving the deportees.

“Forced returns should be suspended for the duration of this process before the issue is revisited. It would be humane and also reinforce Finns’ confidence in their own administration. It is also a question of what kind of a mark we want to leave of ourselves in history.”

Halonen, who served as the President of the Republic of Finland between 2002 and 2012, underscored that people must not be discriminated against during the asylum process based on their religious beliefs but reminded that religion can nevertheless be the cause of persecution and discrimination.

“Islamic asylum seekers have converted to Christianity in Finland. They must not be returned. Not because they are Christians but because their decision to renounce Islam may be a serious threat to their position in their home country,” she argued.

Decision-makers have understandably re-examined the asylum regulations to determine whether or not they remain up-to-date, wrote Halonen. Several aspects of the regulations, however, have been amended with no concern whatsoever for their combination effect.

“Many warned against the very kind of stricter asylum regulations that have been adopted. They have lead to a rapid increase in the number of negative asylum decisions but also to an increase in the number of undocumented people in the country,” she said.

The proposal of Paula Risikko (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, to raise the refugee quota would be a step in the right direction, estimated Halonen.

“We cannot welcome everyone who has to abandon their home country due to uncertainty in the future – and no one is demanding that we do. But we must improve. We can raise our annual refugee quota from the current 750 to guarantee a safer route to a greater number of people in the most vulnerable position who have been granted refugee status by the UN,” she stated.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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