The Ministry of Justice is not proposing that the scope of the general right of apprehension be expanded to apply to illegal immigrants, states Antti Häkkänen (NCP), the Minister of Justice.
“An absolutely inaccurate story. The Ministry of Justice is not planning on linking the right of apprehension to immigration offences,” he tweeted in response to a report published by Ilta-Sanomat on Wednesday.
The tabloid daily reported that the ministry proposes in a memorandum that the maximum punishment for illegal residence be raised from a fine to a six-month prison term. The proposal would according to its interpretation bring the offence under the scope of the general right of apprehension, because the right – as defined in the coercive measures act – allows citizens to apprehend a suspect in an offence that is punishable by imprisonment, if the suspect has been caught in the act or is trying to escape.
Janne Kanerva, a legislative counsellor at the Ministry of Justice, confirmed that raising the maximum punishment for illegal residence to a six-month prison term would likely allow citizens to apprehend people suspected of residing in the country illegally.
“The threat of imprisonment would in my view bring it under the scope [of the right],” he said to Ilta-Sanomat.
Kanerva also reminded that citizens must have sufficient grounds for exercising the general right of apprehension: “It can’t be that you’re allowed to apprehend someone just because they look like a foreigner.”
The Ministry of Justice similarly drew attention to the risks associated with expanding the general right of apprehension, reports Uusi Suomi. The ministry believes it would benefit neither the arrestor nor the arrestee to open the door to situations where the right of apprehension is used based on physical appearance without any factual evidence to corroborate the suspicions.
“Illegal residence is not the type of offence to which […] the general right of apprehension was intended to apply. It is also unreasonable to presume that the general right of apprehension would be a necessary or even particularly helpful means to find people who are residing in the country illegally,” the memorandum reads according to Uusi Suomi.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva