Deportations of Refugees Should Be Stopped, According to Former President Tarja Halonen

President Tarja Halonen and her spouse, Pentti Arajärvi. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

In early April, a few hundred Finns protested against deportations of refugees at the Helsinki Airport, and a group of mask-wearing men and women tried to stop police vans from transporting the refugees to the airport, where they would be escorted back to their home country, Afghanistan, which according to the protesters isn’t safe.

Hundreds Protest Against Deportations of Afghan Refugees in Helsinki – Police Forced to Use Dog and Gas

On Saturday, in a guest column for the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, the former Finnish President, Tarja Halonen, joined the protesters with her pen. “According to several types of research, the politics concerning refugees is in the eyes of many only legal, not fair. This is a bad thing,” Halonen said.

According to Halonen, there are about 40,000 applications for asylum that are under consideration. “There are only a few applications that have no justification, and there is only a small number of accepted applications. Most are a matter of interpretation. The legislation was altered because of the great number of applicants. This is not a good a principle from the point of view of judicial administration if we really want to respect human rights,” Halonen said. “The Foreign Ministry doesn’t recommend Finns to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. The authorities, however, don’t see any obstacles in returning people to these countries, where they have experienced persecution. More and more of us are doubting the safety of the country for the deported.”

“The Foreign Ministry doesn’t recommend Finns to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. The authorities, however, don’t see any obstacles in returning people to these countries, where they have experienced persecution.

Yet another point Halonen highlighted in her column was religion. “People cannot be discriminated when evaluating their right to asylum, but religion can be the reason for persecution or discrimination. In Finland, there are Islamists who have become Christians. They should not be returned. Not because they are Christians but because giving up Islam can jeopardize their status in their old home country,” Halonen said.

According to Halonen there is, however, still a way to “fix the situation.” The Finnish authorities should visit the countries where the refugees are currently deported “in order to update their information.” “The forced deportations should be stopped for the time being, and the situation should be evaluated again. It would be a humane thing to do and it would strengthen the faith of Finns to their government. It’s also a question of what kind of mark we leave in history,” President Halonen said.

President Tarja Halonen’s column can be read in Finnish here.

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