EMN National Seminar 2014
In focus: Dignified Return and Alternatives to Detention
The EMN national seminar was held on the 5th of June in Helsinki. The seminar venue, BW Hotel Katajanokka, was formerly the Katajanokka prison, and for a short time it also served as a detention centre for foreigners. The venue provided a suitable setting for one of the themes of the seminar. detention and alternatives to detention. The other theme of the day was return, how to provide for conditions that encourage foreigners to return voluntarily and how to perform forced returns and removals, so that they respect fundamental and human rights, when they are used as the last remaining option.
The seminar attracted a record number of participants, with over 100 persons attending. They represented many different organisations; authorties, practitioners, researchers and NGOs.
The seminar presentations can be found at the end of this text, with the only exception of the keynote speech by Ann-Charlotte Nygård, which is included as a link in the text.
The coordinator of the Finnish National Contact Point of the EMN, Kielo Brewis welcomed all participants and handed over to Päivi Nerg, chief of staff at the Ministry of the Interior who officially opened the seminar. She put emphasis on the importance of using knowledge gained through research and comparable information in decision making. This is especially important in migration issues that are complex and multi-faceted, and Ms. Nerg mentioned that Finland strives to make better use of the information e.g. when preparing new legislation. She also emphasized that the EMN-network plays a key role in gathering and comparing information on the EU-level. Regarding return issues, Ms. Nerg stated that voluntary return is political priority at the EU-level, which is also reflected in Finland with legislation being prepared in this area. The detention and removal of foreigners are substantial measures that create a lot of discussion. It is important to bear in mind when there is a need to use these measures, that they are based on transparent actions by authorities and respect the human rights of individuals.
Ms. Ann-Charlotte Nygård from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) gave the keynote address of the seminar. The theme of her speech was "Curbing irregular migration, and managing return and detetention in compliance with fundamental rights". She started off by stating that the themes of the day are among the most sensitive in the field of migration. The Treaty of the European Union includes provisions on forced return and removal and Member States are obliged to respect the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights when implementing these provisions. Ms. Nygård reflected on the challenges to fundamental rights that FRA has encountered regarding undocumented migrants, detention, and the monitoring of irregular migration at the external borders of the EU. You can find Ms. Nygårds keynote speech from this link.
The next session in the seminar included the presentations of the German and Polish EMN-studies on Detention and Alternatives to Detention (Germany) and Good Practices in the Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants (Poland). Mr. Janne Grote, representing the German national contact point of the EMN, presented the German study on detention and alternatives to detention, which highlighted the fact that the number of foreigners placed in detention pending deportation has decreased steadily since 2008, even though the number of asylum seekers has increased five-fold during the same period. In Germany, alternatives to detention include the surrender of the passport to the authorities, the requirement of a residence, obligation to report to the authorities and bails/guarantees.
Joanna Sosnowska from the Polish national contact point of the EMN presented the Polish context regarding return and entry bans. She also presented the new alien's act that came into force on the 1st of May 2014, especially the provisions relating to return, entry bans, as well as the competent authorities. Regarding decisions for foreigners ordered to leave Poland, the Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation and Georgia form the four largest nationalities.
Margaret James from the EMN service provider ICF International, reported the seminar audience that work on producing the EMN synthesis reports of the studies Detention and Alternatives to Detention and Good Practices in the Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants has been started. They gather the information from the EU Member States, as well as Norway and present comparable information on the national practices on these themes.
Before the lunch break, senior adviser Berit Kiuru from the Finnish national contact point for the EMN presented the brand-new Finnish EMN publication Oikeus sosiaaliturvaan ja terveydenhuoltoon maahanmuuttajan näkökulmasta (Access to Social Security and Healthcare from the migrants' perspective). The publication is based on the 2013 EMN-study with additional articles by Finnish experts on the theme.
After the lunch break, the seminar turned to the national perspectives on voluntary return.
Mr. Jorma Kantola from the migration department at the Ministry of the Interior presented the government proposal for legislation on voluntary return. It has not yet been submitted to the Parliament, but is foreseen that it will be submitted in the autumn.
Ms. Hanna Helinko from the legal service and country information unit at the Finnish Immigration Service informed the audience about the preparatory work on how to organize voluntary return at the Finnish Immigration Service. This is linked with the government proposal which has been prepared by the Ministry of the Interior, and will prepare the Finnish Immigration Service and the reception centers for the new tasks on voluntary return.
Project coordinator Tobias van Treeck from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Helsinki Office presented the support (information, financial and in-kind assistance) that IOM provides for voluntary returnees. The support and assistance aims to help the voluntary returnees to rebuild their livelihoods in their country of origin, by for instance providing assistance to start a business.
Senior adviser Päivi Keskitalo from the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities commented on the themes of the day and on the other presentations. Her comments focussed on the fundamental and human rights aspects, and how they are respected regarding detention and forced return. She also informed that since the beginnin of 2014 the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities has been given the task to monitor the forced returns and removals carried out by the Police.
After a short break for coffee, the audience was eagerly awaiting the panel discussion with:
- Frank Johansson, Director, Amnesty International, Finland
- Liisa Lintuluoto, Inspector, Helsinki Police Department
- Päivi Keskitalo, Senior Officer, The Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities
- Katja Tuominen, Free Movement Network
- Tobias van Treeck, Project Coordinator, IOM Helsinki
- Jari Kähkönen, Director, Joutseno Reception Centre
- Pekka Nuutinen, Director, Metsälä Reception Centre
The discussion was moderated by senior adviser Riikka Asa from the Finnish national contact point for the EMN. She posed questions and claims to which all the panelists were allowed to respond in turn. The audience also had the possibility to participate by using green and red cards to signify whether they supported or rejected the claims. The atmosphere in the room was electrifying when the panelists, who held widely differing views responded to the questions on detention and forced returns. The most heated debate was caused by the discussion on combining voluntary return with development policy. Regarding the detention of children, the audience was unanimous in rejecting it under all circumstances.
After the panel discussion, it was time to draw a long, although very interesting day to a close. Senior adviser Rafael Bärlund from the Finnish national contact point for the EMN presented the Finnish EMN website, where all the reports presented at the seminar can be found, as well as, a lot of other interesting and useful information regarding migration. Kielo Brewis thanked all the presenters and the participants and stated that the discussions on these topics will be sure to continue and the forthcoming EMN synthesis reports will provide up to date comparable information when they are published in the autumn.
Presentations at the seminar:
Joanna Sosnowska: "Good Practices in the Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants"
Margaret James: "EMN Studies on Detention and Return - Preliminary Findings"Jorma Kantola: Vapaaehtoisen paluun järjestelmän vakiinnuttaminen (in Finnish)
Hanna Helinko: Vapaaehtoisen paluun selvitystyö Maahanmuuttovirastossa (in Finnish)
Tobias van Treeck: Mitä paluun jälkeen? IOM:n tuki vapaaehtoisille palaajille (in Finnish)
Finnish EMN-publications related to the seminar
- EMN-study - Detention and Alternatives to Detention - Finnish contribution
- EMN-study - Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants - Finnish contribution
- EMN-publication - (in Finnish)