80,000 back citizens’ initiative on punishment for asylum seeker sex crimes

Despite reaching a target to trigger consideration in parliament, the initiative is likely to run out of time during the term of the current government.

File picture showing exterior of parliament building / Credit: News Now Finland

More than 80,000 people have signed a citizens’ initiative which calls for foreign sex offenders to automatically lose their existing residence permit, and be immediately deported.

The petition was started in December by Tampere woman Saila Al-Jewari shortly after the first Oulu allegations surfaced that foreign-born men had sexually abused several young girls in the northern city.

“Finnish citizens are no longer satisfied with current laws” writes Al-Jewari in her justification.

“At the moment, we are giving our country the image of our law on sex offenses committed by asylum seekers is very loose […] we need to change Finland’s image in this respect and make it clear that we have a zero tolerance in this respect and if it comes under this heading and will be convicted of it will automatically lose the existing residence permit […] the law must allow for rapid expulsion” she writes.

A citizens’ initiative must have 50,000 signatures to be considered by parliament, but it is unlikely this current parliament will have time to deal with Al-Jewari’s proposals. The rules around citizens’ initiatives mean that proposals raised under one government, cannot be carried over and considered by the next government.

However, the outcry around allegations of sexual assault in Oulu and Helsinki has prompted many politicians to put forward suggestions on reforming laws about asylum seekers who are convicted of sex crimes.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen (NCP) says it will take time for the Constitutional Committee to review proposed changes to existing laws, but has previously stated that the government wants to toughen up sanctions against people who commit crimes to make it more difficult for them to get permanent residency or citizenship.