Statement Open letter to the Helsinki Police Department on the International Day of Elimination of Racial Discrimination

We are alarmed by the constant racist and rude behavior of some officers towards migrants at the Helsinki Police (Pasila Police Houses). Free Movement Network has received feedback from several migrants of colour about the bad treatment they have experienced whilst dealing with officers of Helsinki Police Department (HPD).

It seems that the police does not take people of colour equally seriously as white Finns. For instance, migrants of colour approaching the police in order to apply asylum have been turned away. However, when accompanied by a white, Finnish speaking person, lodging the asylum case has worked out.

Also arranging translation at the police station seems arbitrary: it is not guaranteed that sufficient translation is arranged for discussions that the police has with migrants with whom they don’t have a common language. First, when informing asylum applicants on negative decisions, the translations have been inconclusive. Second, in other matters the police has not collaborated in organizing translation even when requested beforehand.

We’re also aware of a case, in which a migrant of colour lodging a criminal report was met with a group of police officers laughing and mocking him. The inhuman treatment made the person leave the police station crying. The victim feels degraded and disrespected. He compares the treatment of police to that of the corrupted officials in his home country that he was forced to flee.

Overall, the behaviour of some officers has been unacceptably rude and degrading towards people seeking asylum. For instance, some officers act aggressively, yell at asylum seekers, confiscate mobile phones in a unnecessary aggressive manner, for instance, snatching mobile phone’s from people’s hands.

Similar rudeness and disrespectful attitude characterizes the behaviour of guards at the reception of the Pasila Police Station. Regardless of the matter, most of the time, the guards behave in an inappropriate manner towards migrants.

Making an administrative or criminal complaint of the police misbehaviour is in practice almost impossible for migrants who don’t speak Finnish and are new to the society. There’s also experiences among migrants of color that administrative complaints to police are not taken seriously: it takes a lot time time to process the complaints (e.g. more than one year) and the answers don’t often take up some of the essential content of the complaints. Similarly, questions and other complaints by the migrants or their supporters sent by email are not necessary answered by the police at all.

The instances described here are not single events, but an example of a consistent pattern. Due to the ongoing misbehaviors of in the Helsinki police towards migrants, the impression of the police is deemed to be deliberate by migrant/refugee communities. Whatever the intent of the police officers are, the negative impact of such behaviors are causing a great deal of grievances and casting shadows on the polices neutral and non discriminative stance.

The police has the obligation to treat civilians with respect and neutrality; sadly this does not always happen with some officers at HPD. The police has a long way to go to get rid of the structural racism that exist within the institution.

Dismantling racism in the police can start by bringing about changes such as treating migrants and people of colour with respect in their work i.e. discriminative behaviours such as the mockery should not be tolerated and the police needs to be more respectful towards the people of color. What would also create more trust is that the police would allow recording discussions at the police stations, in particular, when people are making a new asylum claim (at the moment, the police forbids this).

We hope that the police would be part of fighting racism in the Finnish society – not adding to it.

Best regards,
Free Movement Network