Amnesty International has reiterated its call for Finland to halt all repatriations of rejected asylum seekers to war-torn Afghanistan.
"We’ve had a clear stance on this for more than a year. This is a very strong position, as we don’t make the same demand about any other country," Amnesty Finland director Frank Johansson said on Wednesday morning on Yle's Radio 1.
A day earlier on the same programme, the Finnish ambassador to Afghanistan, Hannu Ripatti, said that violence in the country is not bad at the moment. He suggested that it had been exaggerated by the media and claimed that there were more traffic fatalities in Afghanistan last year than civilian deaths due to fighting.
A couple of weeks earlier on the show, Olli Ruohomäki, a senior advisor at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that conditions in Afghanistan were worsening and that there was no safe corner of the country. In other words, there seem to be differing views of the situation within the Finnish Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry provides information on each country to the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for asylum policy.
"I find these contradictory statements to be really baffling," said Johansson. "I hope the ministry is asked how they explain this."
"Situation becoming more chaotic"
Johansson cites United Nations statistics indicating that in the first half of this year, more than 1,600 people died due to violence in Afghanistan, with nearly 3,500 injured. The country has a population of nearly 35 million.
"This is the highest half-year figure in a decade," asserts Johansson. "At least to us, it appears that violence in Afghanistan is increasing and that the situation is becoming more chaotic."
The NGO official notes that France and Italy are not at the moment deporting anyone to Afghanistan. Johansson says that Amnesty has repeatedly demanded that Finland also suspend all such repatriations.
In June, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) said that "the security situation in Afghanistan has been unstable even this year. The threat of indiscriminate violence is extremely high in certain parts of the country, which is why no one will be returned to these areas".
The agency says that "the political climate in Afghanistan is influence[d] by the parliamentary and local elections scheduled to be held in October".
Afghans have been one of the largest groups of asylum seekers in Finland in recent years, along with Russians, Syrians and Iraqis – with the latter by far the largest group.