Markus Himanen & Kati Pietarinen
Is Police Guilty of Ethnic Profiling when Controlling Immigration?

The Finnish Police is expected to control if the foreigners who stay in Finland have the necessary documents and residence permits. This task is mandated by the Finnish law. The immigration controls by the police are mainly done by stopping people and conducting identity checks by asking them to provide personal identification and when necessary residence permit cards.

Racial profiling is illegal

On the basis of rules laid down in international law, race, ethnic background or religious belief cannot be used as the only or the predominant basis to stop a person. Last year, ethnic profiling was explicitly prohibited also in the Finnish law. Aliens Acts states now that police checks cannot be based “solely or to a decisive extent, on the presumed or actual ethnic origin of a person”.
In practice, this means that people cannot be asked for their identity documents based on the colour of their skin, rather, there needs to be another reason such as a tip-off received by police.

The surveillance of foreigners is intensifying

Police announced already last autumn that due to the increase of asylum seekers, they would intensify their surveillance of foreigners and checks would be carried out more inland than previously. These controls have been legitimized by the police by arguing that the large increase in the number of asylum seekers and the presumed subsequent increase of the undocumented migrants.

At the beginning of April, the police, the Finnish Border Guard and customs organised a large, weekend-long immigration control operation. In Helsinki for example, police conducted spot checks at harbours and railway stations, where people were stopped and asked to prove their identity.

Tell the Stopped-project about your experiences of being stopped by the police

Last autumn, the Stopped-project, funded by the Kone Foundation, was launched. In the three year project researchers and journalists aim to research ethnic profiling by the Finnish police forces for the first time in Finland. The project is investigating why, how, where and for what reasons ethnic profiling is undertaken. Its main goal is to create public debate about the issue and gather reliable information about the problem. The project seeks interviewees that have experience of being stopped by the police and suspect that they may have been targets of ethnic profiling. Interviews will be used anonymously in the project. The project’s employees can also advise on making complaints about being the target of racial profiling.

The authors work at the Stopped-project. If the Police have stopped you in a public place in Finland and you suspect that it was on the basis of your physical appearance, the colour of your skin or the language you speak, please be in touch with Markus Himanen: [email protected]