Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ask Finland's Minister of Interior to stop detention of innocent children

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child - to which Finland is party - outlaws the detention of children, unless as a last resort and for the shortest possible time (see article 37[b]) and obligates States Parties to ensure that a child seeking asylum receives appropriate protection and assistance (see Article 22). Despite obligations under international law, Finland detains, as a first resort, children seeking asylum for long periods of time.

Amnesty International - Finnish section launched a petition to stop detention of children seeking asylum in Finland. According to the human rights organization, children should be in day care centres, schools or skateparks - not in police detention. Finland detains thousands of people yearly, including people who have fled persecution, war or poverty. They are held in prison-like conditions, although guilty of no crime.

There are children seeking asylum in Finland who live behind closed doors on a daily basis.

I signed Amnesty International's petition asking Minister of Interior Päivi Räsänen whether innocent children belong in police prisons. I believe children should be in homes, preschools, schools and playgrounds - not locked up.

Detention is not in the best interest of a child.

Amnesty's petition urges Minister Räsänen to:
  1. Fulfill the promise to stop detention of unaccompanied children.
  2. Immediately terminate detention of all children, expectant mothers and people traumatized by torture.
  3. Ensure that detention is used only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. Detention places should develop less restrictive alternatives.
  4. Ensure that Finland comply with human rights obligations in detention.

According to Amnesty International, the government of Finland promised in 2011 to forbid the detention of unaccompanied children and to develop alternatives to detention. The promise was written in the government's program, but it has not been fulfilled. Alternatives to detention have not yet been developed and children are still detained.

Amnesty International states that seeking asylum or a better life is not a crime and detained asylum seekers are not criminals.

I have visited Metsälä Detention Centre, one of the facilities where asylum seekers in Finland are detained. It is located in Helsinki and I can confirm that the facility is like a prison. Children are detained there. It has one "playground" with no appropriate recreational facilities for kids.

In my view, the Metsälä facility is called a "detention centre", but it is in fact a prison. It is no place for children, especially children who have done absolutely nothing wrong. 

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