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Police: Iraqis and Afghans main suspects in reported asylum seeker crimes

The Police University College reviewed reported criminal offences in which asylum seekers were suspects or victims.

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Image: Kirsi Matson-Mäkelä / Yle

Crimes in which asylum seekers are suspects are most often related to alleged assault at reception centres or reported threats, according to a review conducted by the Police University College. The analysis indicated that the next most common suspected crime involving asylum seekers were property crimes, sex crimes as well as offences targeting reception centres and staff.

The report was based on reports of suspected crimes involving asylum seekers that came to the attention of police. There was no information about convictions or sentences handed down for the suspected offences.

The research was based on 1,565 criminal reports booked in the police database in 2016, and in which asylum seekers were named as either suspects or victims. At the time the number of asylum seekers in Finland varied from 20,000 at minimum to a maximum of 30,000.

”The data indicated that the background to crimes reported at reception centres often had to do with cultural and religious differences that caused problems among centre residents. A situation leading to assault can develop from a very trivial issue,” Police University College researcher Suvi-Tuuli Mansikkamäki said in a press release.

”Another cause of such problems was the dissatisfaction of asylum seekers with conditions in reception centres. Such dissatisfaction is expressed as crimes targeting reception centres and their staff. An asylum seeker may threaten staff or damage movable property in order to get a transfer to another reception centre,” she added.

Majority of suspects from Iraq

Asylum seekers were named as victims or suspects or both in a total of 161 sexual offences. In cases where the suspects were asylum seekers, the victims were mainly identified as Finnish women, but some 46 percent of the victims were reported to be under the age of 18.

The data identified a total of 1,052 people suspected of criminal offences – some 95 of whom were men and a half of whom were at most 25 years old. Some 62 percent of the suspects were Iraqi citizens.

The reports named 1,066 victims altogether, two-thirds of whom were men and half of whom were Iraqi. Police noted that some individuals were represented in the statistics several times.

Between 2015 and 2016 Iraqis and Afghans accounted for the majority of asylum seekers entering Finland and they were similarly represented as suspects in the alleged crimes reported to police.

Methods to prevent violence

The study is the first of its kind conducted by police researchers and is one aspect of a broader three-part TURVA project conducted by police and the Finnish Immigration Service. The TURVA project seeks to promote understanding of asylum seekers’ basic human rights and to develop working methods to prevent violence at reception centres.

The second phase of the project aims to promote social awareness among asylum seekers by creating educational videos produced on the basis of the data collected in the first phase of the project. Organisers hope the video will help prevent the use of violence and help asylum seekers integrate into Finnish society. It will provide information on how to act in potential disputes, for example.

The third phase of the project will focus on making use of the information yielded by the research and will offer training on methods to prevent violence.

Edit: Updated at 10.50am on 11 May to clarify that asylum seekers were recorded as victims, suspects or both in a total of 161 sexual offences booked. Corrected to indicate that two-thirds of a total of 1,066 victims of reported crime were men and not one-third as previously stated.

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