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Deported Afghan returns to Finland in "exceptional case"

Zaki Hussaini, a 19-year-old Afghan man who was deported from Finland in early July, returned to the country on Tuesday. The Finnish Immigration Service calls Hussaini's situation "exceptional" and says that authorities acted legally in the case.

kukitettu maahantulija ja iloisia vastaanottajia
"Welcome home, Zaki" reads the placard held by Hussaini's friend Helvi Klemetti. Image: Kaisu Jansson / Yle

A young man who was deported to Afghanistan in July has returned to Finland. Zaki Hussaini spent some seven weeks in safe houses in Kabul before having his paperwork cleared for his return.

Hussaini was met by acquaintances and reporters at Helsinki-Vantaa airport on Tuesday. His friend and adopted 'mother' Helvi Klemetti from Loimaa was among the well-wishers.

"I'm so relieved," said Klemetti, with whom the orphaned Hussaini has been living since he came to Finland as an asylum seeker in 2016.

Migri: "Exceptional case"

In handling an application for a work-based residence permit, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) makes sure that the applicant has valid travel documents, usually in the form of a passport. In special circumstances the permit can be granted without such documents, in accordance with the Aliens Act.

Hussaini was not in possession of the necessary documents from his original trip from Afghanistan to Finland at the time.

Migri chief Jaana Vuorio says police acted legally in forcibly returning Hussaini, but that the permit application situation was unusual.

"This is an exceptional case with more twists and turns than usual. He was sent abroad in the middle of his working schedule," Vuorio says. "The most important thing for us in handling his application was the information that he has a certified passport."

The immigration boss says that situations where people return to Finland after being deported are not unheard of, and that most such cases are of people applying for residency based on marriage.

Migri granted Hussaini a year-long work-based residence permit in late July.

Step-by-step process

Hussaini's journey has been long. Migri denied him asylum in late 2016, following which Hussaini applied for a residence permit based on employment.

The Pirkanmaa employment office backed his application in June, 2017. Migri must then sign off on the office's endorsement, granting the applicant a residence permit.

News of the office's positive decision reached neither Hussaini himself nor his employer, lawyer or supporters. Hussaini had already been deported to Afghanistan in early July when the Pirkanmaa office's decision was finally verified. The Turku Administrative Court imposed a non-deportation order on Hussaini after the employment office news, but the young man had already been expatriated.

kukitettu maahantulija ja iloisia vastaanottajia
Zaki Hussaini is back in Finland, to the delight of his friends. Image: Kaisu Jansson / Yle

Hussaini describes his time in Kabul as unsafe.

"It was very dangerous. People talked about bombs and other perils constantly," he says.

As the Finnish Embassy in Afghanistan does not handle immigration permits, Hussaini's late residence permit was sent to the closest office – in New Delhi. Hussaini had trouble getting a visa to travel to India and gathering the "thousand-odd dollars" that he says he would have needed for the trip there.

Timo Täyrynen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that Hussaini's helpers contacted the ministry's immigration unit right after Migri had granted Hussaini a residence permit. In an unusual turn of events, Migri told the Ministry that the necessary documents could be sent somewhere other than New Delhi.

"We finally decided to send the documents to Kabul. This was the very first time we've made such a decision. We wanted to be lenient," Täyrynen says. The Finnish Embassy says that Kabul is very dangerous for people in possession of residence permits, as the documents are considered extremely valuable.

Even after that Hussaini faced difficulties in Istanbul, when Turkish border officials at first refused to process his travel papers. Finally Hussaini, who only speaks Dari and Finnish, was saved from his predicament when his Finnish friends intervened.

Loimaa – Kabul – Loimaa

During his weeks in Kabul, Hussaini says he spent as little time as possible outside the safe houses, only used taxis specifically arranged by said safe houses and disguised himself with sunglasses and a cap.

When asked by police whether Hussaini lives in Finland, Helvi Klemetti responded in the affirmative, she says. Hussaini's home is in semi-rural Loimaa, some 65 km from Turku.

Hussaini now returns to his familiar circles in south-western Finland – including his friends, his job and his own bed.

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