Skip to content

Non-Discrimination Ombudsman: Police monitoring looks like ethnic profiling

A spot check for illegal immigration by the Helsinki police on Friday will be subject to an investigation. Rapper Musta Barbaari posted a public status on Facebook on Sunday criticising police action towards his family members.

The office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman says that police checks seem to be based on ethnic profiling. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The problem of ethnic profiling is a recurring topic in Finland, says Rainer Hiltunen from the office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman.

"It is perfectly acceptable to monitor whether people are in the country legally," Hiltunen says. "But the problem is that when the police set out to find people without residence permits, this monitoring seems to target completely unrelated persons based on their ethnic background or the colour of their skin."

Hiltunen was interviewed on a Radio Suomi programme and said that although people are obliged to tell the police their personal information when asked, no one – including foreigners staying in Finland – is expected by law to carry their passport.

Ethnic profiling is illegal in Finland, and the colour of one's skin cannot be the basis of police action. Hiltunen says that police have expressed interest in developing their methods, but that his office still receives reports of situations where people have experienced discrimination by the police based on their appearance.

Hiltunen says that the basis for illegal immigration spot checks – like the one that targeted rapper Musta Barbaari's mother and sister – should be in specific, accurate information, not simply a suspicion of a person's foreignness.

"There should be a clear indication that a person is in Finland without the proper permissions. That way we could steer clear of involving innocent people in police monitoring operations. In contemporary Finland we come in all stripes," Hiltunen says.

Rapper Musta Barbaari, real name James Nikander, posted a public online account on Sunday of a situation in which his mother and sister were searched by police in Helsinki's city centre and allegedly handcuffed for not showing their passports. Read the article here.