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Finnair says it trusts authorities on deportations, interior minister rejects suspension call

Finland’s interior minister dismisses a call to halt deportations as the national airline says it will cooperate with authorities on the issue.

Mielenosoitus turvapaikanhakijoiden palautusta vastaan Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä 4. heinäkuuta 2017.
An anti-deportation protest at Helsinki Airport last August. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

On Tuesday police removed a Greens Party official from a Finnair plane at Helsinki Airport who was protesting the forced deportation of someone else on the aircraft, following a similar incident last week in Sweden.

Finnwatch, which describes itself as “a non-governmental organisation focused on global corporate responsibility,” criticised the national airline later on Tuesday for taking part in forced repatriations.

The majority-state-owned Finnair has declined to comment specifically on Tuesday’s incident. However the flag carrier responded on Wednesday to the criticism, saying it cannot take a stance on decisions by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

“We have to trust that the authorities have made the correct risk evaluation,” says Finnair Communications Manager Varpu Göös.

“We just ensure that our passengers reach their destinations safely,” she says.

Göös says there have been no such anti-deportation protests on Finnair flights earlier.

Most repatriations on regular flights

According to the Interior Ministry, most people whose asylum applications are rejected in Finland are sent back to their countries of origin on normal, scheduled commercial flights.

Some deportees are accompanied by Finnish police officers on these flights. This is done if the individual is considered to be a threat to him or herself or to other passengers, says Chief Superintendent Mia Poutanen of the National Police Board.

Finnair declines to say how many people have been deported from Finland on its regular flights. Göös says that the airline has not leased out its aircraft for group repatriations.

Greens leader calls for halt

Britain’s Virgin Atlantic airline said in June that it would no longer carry deportees on its flights.

Göös says that Finnair has not considered such a move.

On Wednesday morning, Greens chair Touko Aalto tweeted that “forced repatriations must be temporarily suspended until it is certain that the asylum process guarantees the applicants’ right to justice and basic and human rights”.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen dismissed his demand, saying that a blanket suspension would be a disproportionate response to questions raised about some individual cases.

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