The government's most recent amendments to Finland's Aliens Act have done nothing to improve the legal protection of asylum-seekers, says President Pekka Vihervuori of the Supreme Administrative Court in today's Helsingin Sanomat.
The court boss is coming out against Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government publicly for the first time, even though a Supreme Court report held that the amendments would compromise the legal support of asylum-seekers as early as January 2016.
HS details the three main changes to the Act: the government restricted the Supreme Court's ability to reopen asylum cases already resolved by an Administrative Court, made legal counsel for asylum-seekers fixed fee-only and shortened the Administrative Court complaint period from 30 days to 21. The period for appeal applications to the Supreme Court was also trimmed to 14 days.
The sole reason for the restrictions is that the government and Parliament decided to make Finland less appealing for asylum-seekers by delimiting the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, which is problematic, says Vihervuori.
"It's a problem if political leaders hide behind a court infrastructure which they themselves weaken. Lawmakers have a huge impact on what actually happens to real people," Vihervuori says in HS.
The long asylum process, which was made more difficult in 2015 and 2016, always begins with a decision by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). This can then be contested in Administrative Court. After that either Migri or the asylum-seekers themselves can file an appeal application with the Supreme Administrative Court. If the Supreme Court denies the appeal (as it usually does), it also refrains from officially weighing in on the circumstances involved.
"The worst of it is that these appeals are often made in a terrible hurry, as migrants find it hard to know when to act and how," Vihervuori says. "In a similar way, a Finnish resident who doesn't get enough nutrition may not realise that that could be grounds for appealing their income support decision. If the information is not conveyed, nothing can change."
More on dead body found in Tampere
Following up on an Yle News story from yesterday, next in our review is local paper Aamulehti with more details on a woman's body found by a maintenance worker in the canal of the Finlayson power plant on Tuesday afternoon. The canal had been emptied of water for cleaning and repairs.
"Our worker was removing debris from the screen bar of the canal when they saw a figure, like a person or a mannequin. The police were immediately informed," says Tampere Electricity communications chief Riitta Savola.
Police say the identity of the corpse has not been determined, but report that the body is female.
The Finlayson power plant canal was last emptied for electrical repairs in May last year, and the last time the whole of Tammerkoski channel was drained was in 2014, AL writes.
"The rapids are usually emptied for a full day for basic maintenance and several days for construction work," says Tampere city building administrator Petri Kantola.
Renovations to the Hämeensilta bridge are cited as the reason for the three-day ebb.
First child born to Finnish trans man
In happier news, a transgender man has given birth for the first time in Finland. The 4-kilo baby is in good health and both fathers are overjoyed, tabloid Iltalehti reports.
"There haven't been a lot of laughs to go around for the past few weeks, but everything went perfectly in the end," says Johannes, who was assigned the female gender at birth but has lived as a man for many years.
Johannes and his partner Petri say they will likely try for another child before Johannes concludes his hormone replacement therapy. The names of both parents have been changed for privacy reasons.
The baby was due in late March, and was a late bloomer according to the beaming parents. Both say they received the greatest care during their pregnancy and labour.
"The doctors treated us like a family, and treated me as a person, and no one made a fuss about our situation," says Johannes in IL. "We've received a lot of support, which has been a wonderful surprise."