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Interior Ministry rep urges “objective, big picture” rape case perspective

News broke on Friday that more than ten investigations are currently underway in Finland into alleged rapes by asylum seekers. Should the authorities have spoken up sooner? The Interior Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg says Finland’s police adhered to the same communication guidelines they normally observe with crimes of this nature.

Päivi Nerg
Päivi Nerg Image: Yle

The Interior Ministry's highest ranking civil servant Päivi Nerg appeared on Yle’s TV1 morning programme Saturday to explain her ministry’s recent decision to close asylum seeker reception centres located too far away from police stations. The ministry’s decision came after news on Friday of several recent rape investigations in which the suspect is an asylum seeker.

During the interview, Nerg was asked why the police didn’t bring the incidents to the media’s attention sooner.

“People were informed locally about each of the suspected rape cases. The police also often revealed that the suspects were of foreign origin,” she said.

She says police throughout Finland adhere to the same communication guidelines.

“When the incidents were made public, there was a desire to call attention to them as part of larger whole,” Nerg said in response to recent coverage of the alleged rapes of young girls by asylum seekers in the northwest city of Kempele and the southwest city of Raisio. 

“The actions of police with regard to those accused of the crime did not differ from that given to residents of Finland accused of similar crimes,” she said.

“Each case must be treated as unequivocally criminal. We must recognize that Finnish society has bad elements that already existed.”

Violence against women a huge problem in Finland

Several critics have accused some members in the government of making political capital of the rapes, because the alleged perpetrators are foreign. In a blog that is making the rounds on social media, a rape victim asked where the outpouring of national concern and prime minister's crisis meeting were when she was raped by a Finn.

One thousand suspected rapes are investigated every year in Finland. Studies show that the perpetrators are often known to the victims ahead of time, and that only a fraction of the rapes that actually occur are reported to the police.

According to a survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights last year, one-third of Finnish women between the ages of 18 and 74 have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives from partners or non-partners. The Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy states that 24 women in Finland are killed each year on average at the hands of their current or former partner.

“We must do our utmost to root out this evil. Rape is a crime in every culture,” said Nerg.

Some 30,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Finland so far this year, ten times the number that entered Finland just one year ago. Nerg took care during the interview to point out that just a small fraction of the newcomers have criminal tendencies. In this case, for example, just ten out of 30,000.

“We must be able to speak about the issue objectively, to look for the causes and be brave enough to consider it in terms of the big picture.” 

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