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Faster asylum process, civics test, proof of study or work: Govt’s plans to combat immigrant crime

Migrants who want to stay in Finland will have to pass a nationality test and to provide proof of studies or work.

From left: Blue Reform MP Simo Elo, Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen, Centre Party MP Antti Kurvinen Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Government has announced a package of measures it says aims to provide additional tools for preventing and combating crimes – especially sexual offences – committed by foreign-background individuals. The flurry of proposals follows reporting on several cases of suspected child abuse in Oulu involving alleged perpetrators with foreign backgrounds.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen stressed on Wednesday that Finland will continue to protect persons fleeing persecution but that it will react to serious crimes.

"We should show no mercy in such cases," Mykkänen declared.

The government’s proposal contains 14 groups of measures which each include four different sets of proposed domestic actions.

"The first group requires us to ensure that the behaviour of a small minority does not stigmatise a majority that behaves well," Mykkänen said.

Faster asylum decisions

Otherwise, government will aim to process asylum applications in six months, since delayed outcomes may cause risks, he said. In addition it will prepare measures to withdraw protection in cases where persons who have been granted asylum are convicted of aggravated offences.

"It has become clear that the most severe deterrent is the threat of deportation," he noted.

If someone’s asylum application is denied, police would have the option of holding them in a detention centre in the event that they pose a threat. In addition, persons whose asylum applications have been rejected will be obligated to register their place of residence with authorities, if authorities see fit.

Mykkänen said that it is essential for authorities to detain individuals who may pose a threat immediately after the first negative asylum decision.

"We are not proposing taking thousands of people into detention, but we suggest that at each stage of the asylum process we have the option of applying tougher measures in cases that pose a threat," Mykkänen commented.

New border procedures for asylum seekers

In a bid to manage immigration into Finland, the government says it wants to be able to detain people at the border before allowing them into the country.

The main border points for this purpose would be the Russian border and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport and in cases where people are detained at these locations, the aim would be to process asylum applications in four weeks.

Minister Mykkänen said that this particular move is more of a precautionary measure meant to deal with large numbers of asylum seekers entering the country.

Dealing with the grey economy

According to the minister, Finland will also aim to crack down on the grey economy. “If an asylum seeker receives an enforceable negative decision, we will regularly apply the obligation to register,” he noted.

Mykkänen said that another domestic step would be to ensure that persons who receive permission to remain in Finland put down roots. This would require them to pass basic civics tests and to build up a history of study and work.

Mykkänen presented the raft of proposals along with MPs Simo Elo of the Blue Reform and Antti Kurvinen of the Centre Party.

Back in January, the government had indicated that it would review international agreements on the asylum process as well as the grounds for granting international protection and that it would compare them with practices in other EU states.

At the time it also said that it wanted to speed up the return of rejected asylum seekers, especially to Iraq.

Several measures already in the works

Additionally the government has already earmarked an additional 10 million euros in a supplementary budget for programmes to prevent sex crimes against children and young people as well as for immigration-related security protocols.

Parliamentary groups had also previously agreed to fast-track three pieces of legislation to impose stricter penalties for sexual offences against children and to allow police broader access to personal information to prevent crime, among other things.

Parliamentary groups had also called for the government to determine the possibility of reforming nationality laws to allow persons to be stripped of citizenship for committing serious sexual or violent crimes.

One draft bill currently before lawmakers would cause dual nationals convicted for treason or terrorism to lose their Finnish citizenship. Provisions have already been expedited to deport residence permit holders found guilty of aggravated offences.

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