Appeal of civil society organisations to Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen for preventing refugee espionage and guaranteeing the safety of its targets
In 2011, there were more cases in which foreign intelligence services tried to monitor their own citizens living permanently or residing temporarily in Finland. So-called refugee espionage involves gathering information that is useful to a foreign power about people residing in Finland, their personal circumstances and their political views. Refugee espionage creates a danger that the persons that are being targeted or people close to them will then be subjected to repression or pressure.
Refugee espionage targets people who have left their country of origin because of discrimination or violence. Authoritarian states gather intelligence about their citizens who live outside their homeland. This form of intelligence activity creates fear and uncertainty among people who have been forced to flee their homeland to a safe country.
In Finland, refugee espionage is directed against refugees, exile groups, and dissidents. The espionage is conducted both by intelligence officers and recruited agents. The operations have made use of international cooperation between officials and requests for legal assistance. Refugee espionage can lead to harassment of people close to the target in the home country as well as to torture and death penalties.
The aim of refugee espionage is to monitor refugees and dissidents, and then use threats and propaganda to force them to abandon their actions critical of the regime in their home country. Besides refugees and exiles, refugee espionage can also be targeted at Finnish citizens: critics of a foreign government and supporters of opposition, opinion leaders, and state officials. The end result can be that people are afraid to enjoy their constitutional rights and liberties.
Refugee espionage is still not criminalised in Finland, unlike in other Nordic countries and a large part of Western Europe. When the issue was discussed in the early 1990s, the Finnish Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee did not consider the phenomenon to be of sufficient concern for legislative action. Since then, however, the Finnish Parliament has passed amendments to the constitution requiring that the civil rights of every person living or residing in Finland have to be protected.
In Finland, many civic activists critical of non-democratic regimes and people who have received international protection in Finland have been the target of refugee espionage. The targets have been followed, they have been photographed on the street, their lives have been threatened, and their homes and work places have been broken into. This is no longer a campaign of harassment against individual persons, but an attack against Finnish society as a whole.
We call on the Finnish government to undertake measures to prevent refugee espionage and to guarantee the safety of those who have been the target of this activity. Furthermore, we call on the Finnish government to launch preparatory work for relevant amendments to the penal code and to undertake other necessary measures in this respect.
Helsinki, 28 March 2012
Executive DirectorRefugee Advice Centre
ChairmanFinnish-Russian Civic Forum
Executive DirectorFinnish Refugee Council
Member of the BoardKiila
President Finnish PEN