Asylum: Politician Wants Baltic Island Detention Centres

Finns Party Chairman Jussi Halla-aho says it would be "ideal" if asylum seekers were held in detention centres during their whole asylum process. He even suggests setting up centres on islands in the Baltic Sea, with no connections to Finland.

Information in Arabic provided to asylum seekers / Credit: Migri

Finns Party leader, and Member of the European Parliament Jussi Halla-aho says it would be “ideal” for people waiting to learn their asylum decision to be held in custody.

But he concedes that maybe a more workable option could be to detain asylum seekers as soon as they get a negative decision – so that they can’t stay in the country indefinitely.

“I think that is easier to implement, politically” says the politician. “But we think it would be ideal for this to happen at both ends of the process, that is, a person without a residence permit should not be allowed to move freely” within Finland, says Halla-aho.

“In the current situation, applying for asylum opens people’s access to Finland and other EU countries, even though they know that their chances of getting international protection [asylum] are non-existent. This applies particularly to people living in north and west Africa who use the asylum procedure” he adds.

Halla-aho believes that detention would reduce the security risks and, in all likelihood, reduce the number migrants coming to Finland.

Current Finnish laws allow for detention based on an individual risk analysis. According to Halla-aho, it can be interpreted that if a negative asylum decision is received, and the person does not agree to leave voluntarily, it can be interpreted that he or she is intending to stay, illegally. Halla-aho thinks it is a matter of interpretation, whether the law already allows for systematic detention.

“If not, the law must be changed” he says.

Current Laws

According to Päivi Nerg, Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry, the threshold for detention under current legislation is rather high.

“The return process has to be about to happen, that is, the person has to be about to take the plane or the flight timetables are known. If there is a situation where the person will likely disappear, then they can be taken to a detention centre” says Nerg.

Detention Centres

After August’s knife rampage attack in Turku, involving a suspect who authorities say had been refused asylum, there has been a shortage of places at centres for people with negative asylum decisions.

The Finnish Immigration Service, Migri, does not see the need for more return centres, as they don’t believe it solves the sort of problems that some people – including politicians like Halla-aho – are talking about.

“You might think that a return centre means there is a fence and people cannot get away, and that solves the problem. But legislation does not currently allow such facilities” says Pekka Nuutinen, Director of the Migri Reception Unit.

“If people are afraid that asylum seekers with negative decisions will disappear, this will not resolve their questions. The establishment of return centres was raised already in 2015 when the number of asylum seekers grew sharply. In December 2015 the government decided to establish return centres. During the last year, there was planning to set up such centres, but the matter did not go far” says Nuutinen.

“I do not know what the benefits of return centres would be in comparison to the current situation” he adds.

Recently, the police said that return centres were not necessary from their point of view. The security police SUPO, however, said that they would probably be useful.

According to Nuttinen, Migri’s fifty adult and family units currently function a bit like a de facto return centre.

Baltic Sea Centres

Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho says that the government should set up reception centres on islands in the Baltic Sea that are not connected to mainland Finland.

“The word ‘prisoners’ is a malicious exaggeration, as at these institutions, people would be able to get away any time, but just not to Finland” states Halla-aho.