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Hundreds of asylum applicants protest deportations in Helsinki

A demonstration was held in Helsinki on Saturday to protest Finland’s policy implementing forced returns of rejected asylum seekers. The event gathered what the police estimate was 500 asylum seekers and their supporters in the Senate Square. The authorities said the protest proceeded without incident. 

Mielenilmaus Helsingissä.
Asylum seekers protest in Helsinki on Saturday. Image: Don Trammell

Finland’s capital city of Helsinki was the scene of a protest on Saturday, when hundreds of asylum seekers and their supporters assembled to demonstrate against what they feel is Finland’s unjust asylum policy. The protest was coordinated by a volunteer network under the name Oikeus elää (A Right to Live).

The demonstration began at 2:30 pm with a march to the city’s Senate Square, and was expected to last until 6 pm.

Police estimate that between 400 and 500 asylum seekers of all ages and their supporters gathered in the area, and say the event transpired peacefully. Organisers say the majority of asylum seekers participating were originally from Iraq. They protested the Finnish Immigration Service’s policy of enforcing forced returns to their homeland. 

Reading negative asylum decisions aloud

The Right to Live organisation behind the demonstration feels Finland’s asylum policy is unjust.

The Finnish Immigration Service announced on November 19 that it will revisit its previous security assessment of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan in January in light of new armed conflicts and deteriorating human rights in the countries. In May 2016, the Finnish immigration authorities ruled the countries safe for nationals to return.

Finnish police report the group had obtained all the necessary permits for a public demonstration and arrangements were made with the Helsinki Cathedral parish and the vendors in the ongoing Christmas market in Senate Square that space would be set aside for the group.

During the demonstration, the protesters lit candles in remembrance of civilians killed in global conflicts and read negative asylum decisions issued by the Finnish Immigration Service aloud. 

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