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Finland looks to criminalise "refugee spying"

Finland’s Security Police (Supo) says foreign states are increasingly engaged in spying on their nationals resident in Finland. The Ministry of Justice now wants to outlaw the practice.

Nainen banderollin edessä.
Suomessa asuvan kiinalaisen Falun gong-harjoittajan Jin Zhaoyun mukaan Kiinan hallitus seuraa häntä Suomessakin. Image: Yle

Supo and three NGOs are demanding that Finland take Sweden's lead by criminalising the surveillance of foreigners or “refugee espionage."

Some basic rights apply to everyone in Finland, not just citizens.

– Tuomas Portaankorva, Supo chief inspector

According to Supo, so-called "refugee spying" is being conducted by non-democratic states. Spying is typically intended to prevent people from supporting opposition groups back home. Information obtained may be used against the target’s family or friends in their homeland.

Jin Zhao yu, a Chinese Falun gong practitioner living in Finland, told Yle’s investigative programme MOT that Chinese officials monitor her in Finland. China banned the spiritual movement Falun gong in 1999, claiming it jeopardised social stability.

Justice Ministry official Janne Kanerva says "refugee spying" is a problematic concept to define. In Sweden, it is against the law to use illegal means to collect information for the benefit of another state. Two years ago Sweden sentenced a Uighur man to jail for passing information to China on a community of Uighur refugees.

Supo and the Justice Ministry say the collection of information on the political leanings of émigrés threatens human rights in Finland.

”Some basic rights apply to everyone in Finland, not just citizens,” says Supo chief inspector Tuomas Portaankorva.

The Chinese Embassy in Finland denies engaging in espionage.

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