Council Provides Guidelines for Protecting Asylum Seekers

The Finnish Ecumenical Council has published guidelines for churches on how to assist asylum seekers whose requests for asylum were rejected. The Council states that churches are obligated to help someone in a life-threatening situation.

According to the guidelines, a church should offer protection to someone if the asylum process was not handled fairly.

The Ministry of Interior has criticised the plan. Director-General of the Immigration Department at the Ministry, Pentti Visanen, questions how a church can determine if an asylum seeker's case was properly investigated, considering the documents are classified.

The matter was reported on the online pages of the Kotimaa-lehti newspaper.

Guidelines Are Not Radical Reforms Council Vice-Chair Heikki Huttunen said the guidelines are not radical reforms. Instead, he said long-term practices are now written down. Parishes are not required to follow the guidelines given by the Council. Rather, the plan provides instructions and ideas if someone goes to a church for asylum. Huttunen said that Christian parishes in Finland have already provided protection to those in need. However, he points out that differences between denominations exist. "The purpose of the guidelines is to activate Lutheran parishes which have been more cautious in relation to the state," said Huttunen. Traditional free churches, for example in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia, have already helped people whose asylum applications were rejected. YLE