A letter accessesd by Helsinki Times stated that the reason for the rejection was that the education of Iranian students may eventually become a threat to public policy or public security of Finland.Jeopardizing state security and Finland's international relations given as chief reasons.

FOLLOWING on from protests on 12 June in front of the Embassy of Norway in Helsinki that saw the Iranian student community and supporters of SEDAI (Stop Educational Discrimination Against Iranians) protest against the rejection of residence permits that their fellow countrymen have received after commencing their PhD research in Norway, similar incidents have emerged in Finland.

Helsinki Times accessed a rejection letter received on 26 March by an Iranian student who intended to work as a researcher in wireless sensors and antennas at Aalto University. The student was rejected because he was "considered a threat to public policy or public security, national health or Finland's international relations in accordance to law 36/1."

Furthermore, the letter explains that "according to the Security Police data, it is possible that the applicant's residence will jeopardize state security and Finland's international relations." Therefore, "the Security Police does not support the application." This student also faced a 500-euro fee for the process whereby he was refused a study placement in Finland.

The rejections enforced by the Finnish Immigration Service and the Norwegian authorities refer to the resolutions of the UN Security Council, which "calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and prevent specialised teaching or training of Iranian nationals, with in their territories or by their nationals, of disciplines which would contribute to Iran's proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities and development of nuclear weapon delivery systems."

"This is a wrong interpretation of the sanctions, which are very specific about the fields related to the military and nuclear enrichment. Some of the students that have been rejected are studying within fields that don't have any relevance to this," ensures Mohsen Koolaji, an Iranian student who lives in Helsinki.

Official response

"We know that some Iranians are being rejected because of their fields of study, but I don't know about the specific cases," explains Pentti Sorsa, head of the student team at the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). "We follow what the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) suggests us to do."

According to SUPO superintendent and spokesperson Tuomas Portaankorva their work is limited to investigating and providing Migri with assessments on certain individuals.

"SUPO deals with issues related to State security. Within this mandate we also give opinions or assessments – both when asked and on our own initiative – to other authorities to assist in their decision-making," Portaankorva explains. "This includes the Finnish Immigration Service when it is considering its decision on a particular permit case. Our assessment is based on all information available to us for the case."

The spokesperson refused to answer whether the officers that make the assessments have a scientific background or not. Portaankorva also declined to explain how SUPO draws the line on the risk of certain fields of study or research.

Pilar Díaz