Finland: Concern over anti-immigrant citizen patrols

Finland's chief prosecutor is raising concerns about citizen patrols being organized by the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin. (Minna Aula / Yle)
Finland’s chief prosecutor is raising concerns about citizen patrols being organized by the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin. (Minna Aula / Yle)
Finland’s chief prosecutor Matti Nissinen has sharply condemned the appearance of citizen’s patrols in Finnish cities.

Nissinen weighed into the debate on the unofficial patrols by the anti-immigrant group known as Soldiers of Odin in response to the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers in Finland. He said that history has shown that nothing good has ever come of such movements.

Prosecutor General Matti Nissinen joined the debate over the emergence of the layman patrols in as many as 20 cities in Finland, saying that they don’t belong in a society that has an organised police force.

“I think the practice looks very suspicious. In my view it doesn’t belong in a society that has an organised police force and in which police have a certain jurisdiction. I don’t see this as a good thing at all,” Nissinen said.

The members of the three-party coalition appeared to have differing views on the issue, with Foreign Minister Timo Soini appearing to endorse the unofficial patrols, although he denounced racism and violence. Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said Wednesday that the coalition would discuss making the patrols illegal.

Group claims asylum seeker security threat

The anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin established the street patrols last autumn in the northern town of Kemi, when large numbers of people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East began to arrive in Finland.  At the time the group said that it was responding to a security threat posed by incoming asylum seekers.

The group said via its Facebook page that it is not racist, nor a national socialist movement, drug gang, motorcycle club or criminal organisation.

However the Nissinen was not swayed by the assurances. He drew attention to the group’s plan to wear a semblance of a uniform – dark bomber-style jackets with a logo and the name of the organisation.

“I am troubled by this because if we go back in history, we see that nothing good has ever come out of street patrols by this kind of uniformed group,” Nissinen said.

“Racist and threatening image”

The Soldiers of Odin claim to be on hand to assist everyone, regardless of ethnic background. The group describes itself as critical of immigration, and that their security patrols will act as the eyes and ears of the police.

Nissinen said however that they group’s actions convey a racist and threatening image.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

The group says that its patrols have now spread to 20 cities across the country. Nissinen pointed out that the shortcomings of modern society could otherwise provide a breeding ground for similar patrols.

Finnish law does not prohibit the practice as the constitution guarantees citizens the right to free movement. Police chief Seppo Kolehmainen has previously noted that this does not give street patrols the right or the authority to intervene in other people’s activities. He said that police will monitor the situation and take action against any possible illegal actions.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Should Canada have a plan for climate refugees?, Radio Canada International

Finland: Asylum-seekers sign up for snow clearing in Finland, Yle News

Norway:  Refugees find Arctic gate to Schengen, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Councils in North Sweden fail to house refugees, Radio Sweden

Russia:  Finland and Russia discuss refugee crisis, Yle News

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