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Thursday's papers: Asylum seeker language barrier, conscripts detain civilians, hazardous chemical still sold

Immigration service interpreters, a military exercise snafu and consumer products containing a potentially dangerous antibacterial agent are discussed in today's papers.

Sotilas ja rynnäkkökivääri.
A military training exercise went off script in May. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Helsingin Sanomat reports on the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) this Thursday, writing that the agency's all-important interpretation service is lacking in quality and oversight. Problems with language barriers can affect the outcome of asylum decisions, according to a report ordered by Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen.

The quality of Migri's interpretation work is not currently monitored in any way, which needs to change according to the report.

"This is a significant deficiency in terms of quality and legislative oversight, when considering the importance of face-to-face encounters between asylum seekers and Migri staff," HS quotes the report.

The account included detailed texts of thirty specific interviews conducted via interpreter. Discrepancies were found between two official Migri statement records and their closely inspected, reordered transcripts.

Minister Mykkänen says he ordered the report after widespread worries over the potentially lax nature of the legal protection offered to asylum seekers. He says he wants to weed out weak links in the asylum process that might prove to systematically disadvantage immigrants.

With multiple researchers and lawyers warning of possible injustices committed in rushed or under-monitored asylum decisions, the minister says that although overwhelmingly most Migri cases are solved legally, there is still much to be improved.

The new report includes developmental strategies to better ensure the immigration process is conducted fairly in each and every case; one such suggestion is for universities to begin offering asylum procedure courses in their curriculum.

"As a country with rule of law we must do our utmost to ensure that every individual immigration case involves the best judicial care possible," Mykkänen says in HS. "I see no reason why oversight of language services should not be improved."

Civilians detained unlawfully

In another case of legal rights being curtailed, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat features an article this Thursday on a military exercise by the Defense Forces that went awry in late May.

Two civilian employees of defense contractor Patria had guns pointed at them, were detained for six hours, and for a time handcuffed and blindfolded without due cause during a training exercise in the western region of Jämsä, the paper writes.

Eyewitnesses to the treatment of the two civilian workers – who were wearing their Patria maintenance work outfits and driving a car just outside the training area – describe the incident as a farce. The two men were not part of the exercise in any way, IS writes, as the initial interrogation also showed.

Despite this, the men were stopped a second time even after their identities had been confirmed.

"There were no actual obstacles or problems, we were stopped for invented reasons," one of the employees says.

Police are expected to begin their investigation as a deprivation of liberty case, but no official charge has yet been established, nor the exact chain of command that lead to the detention.

Toothpastes may contain toxic triclosan

Tampere region paper Aamulehti goes into consumer safety, writing that hygiene products and cosmetics sold in Finland may still contain a chemical ingredient called triclosan, an antibacterial agent that is held by scientists to be hazardous both to the environment and human health.

Triclosan prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria in products such as toothpaste, but tests have shown that the chemical does not decompose in nature and can cause convulsions, haemorrhaging, diarrhoea and other gut trouble in mice.

Products that may include the chemical include some soaps, creams, deodorants, mouth washes, sports socks, children's toys and plastic cutting boards.

The EU banned the use of triclosan in foodstuffs in 2010, and hygiene products were set a content limit. Dentistry docent Merja Laine tells AL that interpretations of the dangers of triclosan vary.

"Nordic authorities are largely critical of triclosan for its apparent environmental and medical risks," she says. "The American Dental Association still classifies it as safe, however, and the chemical is more often found in the US."

Laine says that consumers who discover they are using products with triclosan should stop using them, but that such products are now rare in Finland.

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