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SPP chair criticises asylum policy

Finland's tightened asylum policy has come under fire from the chair of the Swedish People's Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson. She released a statement after Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday revealed serious shortcomings in the system of legal assistance for asylum seekers.

Anna-Maja Henriksson
SPP leader Anna-Maja Henriksson. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Anna-Maja Henriksson, a former Justice Minister and current chair of the Swedish People's Party, has slammed changes to the system of legal assistance for asylum seekers.

Her outburst follows an article in Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday which detailed serious problems with the provision of legal assistance for asylum seekers in Finland after changes made to the rules around which services were eligible for reimbursement.

HS reported that most asylum seekers now attend interviews without a lawyer, endangering their rights to justice and increasing the chances of mistakes. The number of successful appeals has leapt this year as the courts find problems in decisions made by the Immigration Service.

"These changes have weakened asylum seekers' access to justice," said Henriksson in a statement. "It was a big mistake to prevent for example the Refugee Advice Centre and other specialists from assisting asylum seekers in their first asylum interviews."

Henriksson says the credibility of the legal system is at stake.

"The government's reform has in practice led to misuse of taxpayers' money, as funds have been put in the pockets of the kind of lawyer that takes advantage of people's distress without being genuinely interested in doing the work as well as possible," read the statement.

She urged the government to change the rules back and correct what she calls mistakes. Henriksson says her party warned of the danger of changing the rules, and now it seems clear that the objective was to remove people from the country more quickly. 

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