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Official: Finland responsible for fate of gay deportees

EU-funded research suggests Finland has deported asylum seekers to countries where they could be put to death for their sexual orientation. Some have even been told to conceal their sexuality to ensure they remain safe. But a ministry official says responsibility falls on Finland if deportees are harmed in their home countries.

Most of the cases took place between 2008 and 2010. Researchers say that ten refugees were sent to countries where they could receive harsh punishments for their sexuality, but there could be more cases. More than 70 countries currently treat homosexuality as a crime.

Some African and Middle Eastern countries can sentence people to death for homosexuality, while several have fines, forced labour and long jail sentences on the statute books. Nigeria, Iran, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania fall into that group.

The deportations came to light as a result of EU-funded research into the matter.

Pentti Visanen of the Interior Ministry is now examining the report. He says officials today are becoming increasingly aware of gay asylum cases. He says responsibility falls on Finland if deportees are harmed in their home countries.

Those working with gay asylum seekers say Finland encouraged them to go to safer areas of their home countries or conceal their sexuality.

Attorney Juha-Pekka Hippi says telling people to stay in the closet is a violation of human rights. Visanen of the ministry agrees, likening such advice to telling political refugees to not voice their opinions.

The Finnish Immigration Service, however, denies it sent gay asylum seekers into dangerous situations.

“Asylum is granted if the legal conditions are met and if the application is believable,” says senior inspector at the Service, Piia Pirkola-Mercier.

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