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Post-terror attack security guidelines not fully implemented

Finland's Justice Ministry says some security measures proposed after the 2017 Turku terror attack are not yet in place.

Ihmiset toivat kynttilöitä puukkoiskun uhrien muistolle Turun kauppatorille 19. elokuuta 2017.
Flowers and candles brought to Turku's market square in memory of victims of the terror attack, August 2017. Image: Markku Ojala / EPA

A Justice Ministry report released on Monday has found that work still needs to be done to implement a number of security recommendations outlined following a deadly terrorist attack in Turku nearly two years ago.

A terror attack in Turku in August 2017 left two people dead and eight others injured. Last summer, a Moroccan man, Abderrahman Bouanane, was charged with two counts of murder with terrorist intent and eight counts of attempted murder with terrorist intent, and was eventually sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of carrying out the knife attack.

Soon after the assaults in Turku, a team from the Safety Investigation Authority was asked by the government to draw up a report on the attack and how Finland could prevent similar incidents.

That report, turned in last June, listed nine recommendations for remedial measures. The proposals were addressed to several authorities including the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), various ministries, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) and the National Police Board.

Shorter asylum application process

On Monday, Finland's Ministry of Justice published a review of how those recommendations have been implemented.

This report says that due to a lack of funding, progress has not been made on suggestions to set up an advice service for asylum seekers and to support organisations working to prevent radicalisation.

One of the key recommendations from the Safety Investigation Authority was to reduce the total time for processing asylum applications and appeals to no more than 18 months.

By bringing more resources to bear, the average processing time for asylum applications in 2018 was cut to around eight months. The average time to process appeals is expected to fall to around six months by the end of this year.

Better crisis communications needed

Appeals are now handled by four regional administrative courts, rather than the Helsinki Administrative Court alone, a change that Justice Ministry Undersecretary Pekka Timonen believes will be permanent.

"Applications are now [also] processed in the administrative courts of eastern Finland, Turku and northern Finland. At the same time more resources have been invested. The courts themselves have placed more emphasis on the process in internal training. Our expectation is that processing times will be significantly reduced," said Timonen.

A recommendation to upgrade crisis communications among authorities was found to have led to improvements. However, the Justice Ministry review says that more tests and exercises of the system are needed.

A suggestion to improve means to inform the public of security threats has in part been met by the "112 Suomi" phone app maintained by national emergency centres, which can provide localised alerts.

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