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Immigration Director Criticises Church

The Directorate of Immigration has criticised actions by the Lutheran Church in the affair of the Iranian-Kurdish asylum-seeker Naze Aghai. Director-General Jorma Vuorio told the newspaper Savon Sanomat, that it is not the business of the Church to advise the Directorate of Immigration on what decisions to make.

Vuorio said he believes that the Church is exploiting the mass media to influence the fate of asylum-seekers.

Interviewed by YLE, the general secretary of the Finnish Ecumenical Council, Father Heikki Huttunen, said that in an open society governed by the rule of law it should be possible to question decisions by officials, and that the use of publicity to influence events is part of the democratic system. Räsänen: Church has right to opinions

The chair of the Christian Democratic Party, Päivi Räsänen pointed out that the Church has a right to opinions.

"The Church has every right to take part in social debate including the decision-making process concerning application for asylum," said Räsänen on Saturday.

She went on to note that the Church has not from the authorities those people to whom it has given sanctuary, nor otherwise acted in an unlawful manner.

The current debate was sparked off by the case of an Iranian-Kurdish asylum-seeker, Naze Aghai. After an earlier failed asylum permit application, Aghai hid from the authorities, and was later given sanctuary by a church in Turku in June. On Friday, the Helsinki Administrative Court suspended a deportation order issued by the Directorate of Immigration.

The court said that the temporary suspension of a deportation order is not unusual in such cases and does not indicate a final decision in Aghai's favour.

A church in Kuopio has also given sanctuary to a Sudanese woman, Anna Ladon.