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Tuesday's papers: Finland's sexual abuse statistics, human rights talk in China

Papers on Tuesday go into police statistics on sexual assault against minors in Finland, and President Sauli Niinistö's visit to Beijing on Monday.

Presidentti Niinistö ja Kiinan presidentti Xi Jinping.
President Sauli Niinistö met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday. Human rights talks "did not upset" Xi. Image: Matti Porre / Tasavallan presidentin kanslia

Finland's news media all carry distressing statistics this Tuesday, following police reports of aggravated sexual offenses allegedly committed by asylum seekers and recent migrants against minors in Oulu.

Amid growing concern, daily Helsingin Sanomat publishes detailed figures from the National Police Board and Statistics Finland that show an increase in sexual attacks against minors since the year 2000. The number of cases reported that year was some 500, compared to nearly 1,700 in the worst year of 2011, many years before the steep rise in immigration.

HS writes that the number of sexual offenses against minors grew last year, from some 1,200 to 1,400 reported cases. The severity of the charges has also risen; in 2000 some 15 percent of all sexual assault cases against minors were considered aggravated, whereas last year about a third of cases were prosecuted as aggravated.

Risk factors

The majority of the perpetrators in all cases of sexual assault and rape that took place in Finland were Finnish natives, according to the paper.

However, last year one-fifth of suspected perpetrators in cases against minors were foreign citizens and about one-third of suspects in all cases of rape were non-Finnish, according to HS.

Police figures show that foreign suspects in cases of child abuse in Finland hailed mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan, Estonia and Iran.

A large proportion of asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan are young men, and 20-34-year-old people from Iraq were found to have committed 10 times more sexual offenses of some kind in 2017 than Finnish citizens of the same age.

Accurate comparisons were not possible on Monday due to a lack of fresh information on the age of asylum seekers. A total of 48 Iraqi citizens were suspected of sexual abuse compared with 801 Finnish citizens in 2018, a HS graph shows.

HS cites a Norwegian report that finds people seeking asylum due to crime in their countries of origin are more likely to be involved in crime in the country they move to. Immigrants who arrive because of work, studies or family are equally or even less likely than Finnish-born people to commit illegal acts, the study found.

Researcher Martti Lehti from the University of Helsinki says in HS that asylum seekers are the most challenging group of people to help integrate into Finnish society. People seeking asylum are generally fleeing some form of violence or persecution.

"Asylum seekers tend to have less schooling than other groups, leading to a smaller chance of employment," Lehti says. "Slow employment, again, feeds crime."

Human rights discussed

Meanwhile, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that president Sauli Niinistö, who's on an official visit to China this week, used his time with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday to cover numerous issues face to face with China's leader. Among the issues discussed were China's human rights track record and ongoing controversial policy moves.

Amid inspections of China's military and reminiscences about the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Niinistö told IS he got in questions about the dozen or so Canadian nationals being held in custody by Beijing as well as the fate of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs, who are being actively oppressed and monitored by the Chinese government in the western Xinjiang region according to human rights advocacy groups.

Niinistö was tight-lipped about the nature of his conversations with president Xi.

"We talked through all of it. We spoke for about an hour and the subject matter did not upset the host at all," Niinistö said.

Niinistö also said in IS that he spoke with Xi about the relationship between the three major world powers – the US, China and Russia – and about tensions between North and South Korea. As for the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China, Niinistö's take was brief and non-committal.

"There's some sense of hope in the air, I suppose – at least nothing dark on the economic horizon. But let's not affect the stock market, now," Niinistö told the tabloid.

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