With the legislature practically concluded, less than two months before parliamentary elections; amid growing popular discontent due to deterioration of public services and indicators pointing to a possible change in the country's leadership, the Finnish government has placed immigrants at the centre of the bull's eye.
The office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of the Interior published a press release on Wednesday titled 'Government action to prevent sexual offences and offences by immigrants'. The announcement includes a package of measures prepared by the ministerial working group on internal security and administration of justice and the ministerial working group on migration, led by the Minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen.
The government has announced these measures a few weeks before the Parliamentary elections and with the country working at half-speed due to the celebration of the winter holidays, that every year take many Finns abroad or far from their homes.
In fact, tensions related to the growing presence of immigrants in the country will be an important issue in this campaign.
The writing of the document includes a linguistic pirouette to explain that the aim of the package of measures is to fight as separate problems "sexual offences in general and crimes committed by immigrants". However, the text shows the Government's interest in linking the tightening of punishments against immigrants who break the law with a stronger "general" response to sexual crimes.
The crimes in Oulu
Among the population nobody ignores that this is the governmental response to the national shock provoked by the recent detention of a score of men with foreign background in the city of Oulu, suspected of having committed abuses to minors.
Those crimes have horrified the vast majority of Finland's inhabitants, including those with foreign origin. At the same time, they provoked hate campaigns on the Internet by far-right nationalistic groups, whose members labelled immigrants and refugees as "rapists" and "paedophiles" in their tweets and articles.
“In the preparation of the action programme our focus was on measures to ensure that Finland is a safe and secure country while also being open, international and capable of attracting workforce from abroad. By these measures we want to provide the authorities with sufficient powers and resources to prevent in advance and take action to deal with all sexual offences”, Minister Mykkänen said.
A package of measures
According to the release, the measures to address criminal offences by immigrants include "giving more consideration to criminal background when granting residence permits on the basis of international protection and by enhancing the surveillance of persons pending return who may pose a threat". In future the reporting duty will apply more broadly than at present to persons who have received a deportation decision that has gained legal force and who are no longer entitled to reception services.
In addition, the Government will start to prepare legislative amendments by which the status of international protection could be terminated for persons who have committed an aggravated offence in Finland or persons residing abroad who pose a risk to national security or public order.
The measures also include greater vigilance by the authorities to prevent work and illegal residence in the country. And greater requirements to access and permanent residence permit.
"Measures to prevent sexual offences in general include providing more resources to internet police, more severe punishments for sexual offences, and increased cooperation among the public authorities and preventive police work by the Anchor teams", explains the release of the Ministry of the Interior.
At the same time, stronger action will be targeted to schools so that children and the young will be better capable of recognising grooming behaviour and acting safely in social media, and have clear instructions how to act in a situation where they come across something unpleasant, frightening or disturbing in social media.
Introduction "without delay"
University Central Hospitals, first in Oulu and Helsinki, will introduce the so-called Child Advocacy Center model, where a multidisciplinary team in a child-friendly environment examines the situation of a child or young person who may be a victim of sexual offence. They also collaborate to make sure that all the necessary further measures will be taken.
The Government will start the preparation and introduction of these measures without delay. The ministerial working group on internal security and administration of justice and the ministerial working group on migration will set more detailed target schedules for the measures and follow the progress of their implementation.
Legislative preparation will also be started during the current government term, the release says, in order that the next Government can make the necessary assessments and launch the measures as soon as possible.
This week the Government will give its supplementary budget proposal for 2019, including proposals for additional funding that is needed for some of the measures.