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Protest camps move to new locations in Helsinki

A protest in support of asylum seekers has set up in a new location after it was evicted from outside Helsinki's Central Railway Station in June. A second demo by anti-immigrant activists founded by the nationalist 'Finland First' group has also found a new home, across the street from the asylum seekers' protest.

Turvapaikanhakijoiden Oikeus elää -mielenosoitus Helsingin Rautatientorilla.
Demonstrators against Finland's strict asylum policy protest in their old camp location near the railway station in June. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Police report on Wednesday that the asylum seekers' ousted 'Right to Live' protest camp has relocated to a new location in front of the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum along Mannerheimintie in central Helsinki. The asylum seeker-led demo has been protesting for months against tightened asylum seeker and family reunification policies.

An opposing anti-immigrant camp that was similarly removed from its first Central Railway Station site, led by Suomi Ensin (Finland First) activists, has likewise relocated across the street to a small square across the street featuring a monument to former president J.K. Paasikivi.

Both camps now have permission to protest in these areas from eight in the morning until ten at night, a time restriction that wasn't in place in their old camp locations.

City officials forced the groups to dismantle their previous railway station camps in June, declaring that "No protests connected to the removed camps will be allowed at the Central Railway Station for the time being". The decision was justified on safety grounds, as the nationalist camp in particular was seen to pose a danger to passersby.

The new locations were first reported on Tuesday evening by the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Both groups have permission

Deputy police chief for the Helsinki Police Heikki Kopperoinen confirms to the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle that both groups of protesters have been granted permission to demonstrate in their new camp locations.

"The Right to Live demonstrators will continue their protest in a location that was jointly agreed upon with the police and the city. The Finland First demonstration has negotiated with the police and a new spot has been assigned for them to continue their protests," he says.

The first camps were evicted from their locations for safety reasons. But how have the new locations changed this safety scenario?

"We are constantly assessing the situation, day by day. These assessments are used as the basis for any police decisions, in addition to negotiations with both the demonstrators and the city. Together they form an overall evaluation of how such matters should be resolved," Kopperoinen replies.

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