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Finland to deport Thai teen despite appeals from parents, Finnish stepfather

Police in Finland are preparing to deport a 14-year-old Thai girl back to Thailand, although she may have no one to care for her. The girl’s family in Finland have applied for an extension to her residence permit so she can continue living with her mother, Finnish stepfather and little sister in Finland. Thai authorities do not recognise her father as her official guardian because paternity was never established.

moottoripyöräilijä ja sivuvaunussa kaksi ihmistä
The girl's Finnish family visited her frequently in Thailand before bringing her to Finland in 2016. Image: Harri Aaltosen kotialbumi

Finnish police are set to execute a deportation order for a Thai teenager who came to Finland to live with her mother and Finnish stepfather.

Some 18 months ago, the girl’s family applied to the Finnish immigration Service to extend her residence permit so she could stay in Finland. However, in May immigration officials decided that the child could not stay in Finland with her only official guardian, her mother, and ordered her deported back to Thailand.

The girl’s mother and stepfather have visited the police station to inform them of the new application.

"From the perspective of the police, nothing has changed," said Harri Aaltonen, the girl’s stepfather.

The new application for a residence permit extension does not seem likely to halt the implementation of the deportation order.

Thai father did not want child in Finland

In arriving at its decision to deport the girl, immigration officials said that the girl’s true guardian is her father because she had lived most of her life in Thailand. She came to Finland in spring 2016.

The mother wanted to bring her daughter to Finland years ago when she married Harri Aaltonen and moved with him to Finland. However the child’s Thai father blocked the plan.

"She was still too young earlier, that is why I was worried, but now she is already big," the girl’s father said.

The situation in Thailand has also changed. The father told Yle that he is ill and has no job or money. When the girl lived in Thailand, she was cared for by her grandmother because her father was at work. Now the father says that the child’s grandmother is aged, has many health complaints and cannot assist with taking care of the girl.

"Sometimes she faints, she cannot look after a child," the father explained, adding that his mother had also moved away and no longer lived in the same household.

"Now there is no one to care for her," he added.

According to immigration officials, they had no information that the girl was in danger of being left without care in Thailand. In its decision, it said that the girl could continue living with her father and grandmother.

In Thailand mother is only legal guardian

Finnish immigration officials have not interviewed the girl’s father, however, who said that he is prepared to travel 400 kilometres to Bangkok to explain the situation to Finnish authorities.

The girl’s mother and stepfather are prepared to pay for the trip, if immigration officials will arrange for the man to be heard at the Finnish embassy.

The father said that on many occasions, he tried to get local officials to certify a written statement to send to Finnish authorities.

However Thai officials will not certify any documents relating to the child because the father is not legally authorised to represent her – his paternity has not been confirmed. Instead local officials see the mother as the girl’s sole guardian and the only one who can speak on behalf of the child.

Finnish officials: Better life, education no justification for residence

The Finnish Immigration Service ruled that it is not in the child’s best interests to grant her a residence permit to stay in Finland. The girl’s father disagrees.

"I believe that the child should stay in Finland with her mother."

The girl’s mother and stepfather also disagree with the authorities. They pay all of the child’s living expenses and she attends school. But officials say that the desire to offer the girl a better life and opportunity for education in Finland do not justify granting a residence permit based on family ties, since there is no family bond.

Officials said that any ties between the mother and her child were severed when the mother moved to Finland in 2007. Before the girl’s mother brought her to Finland she visited the child in Thailand and spent up to two months at a time with her. When the mother returned to Finland, they maintained contact via video calls.

The appeal against the rejected residence permit application will be heard in the Hämeenlinna Administrative Court. The court has repeatedly rejected appeals against the deportation order.

When the girl is deported from the country, Finnish police must hand her over to Thai police. But before that, Thai officials will have to determine where she should be placed once police have her. The girl has no official guardian or other representative in Thailand

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