The debate on dual citizenship in Finland became headline news again on Thursday when President Sauli Niinistö was quoted as saying on YLE News that dual nationals could pose a security threat to the country. On Friday, YLE published a poll where 66% of the respondents agreed that dual nationals shouldn’t be hired to work for the defense forces and foreign ministry.
One of the interesting questions we should ask is why has dual citizenship become such a burning national issue at this moment?
Source: YLE News.
Apart from this week’s scoop by YLE, which revealed that the defense forces places restrictions on conscripts who are dual citizens of Finland and Russia, it appears to be as well one of President Niinistö’s favorite topics. In 2014, he started to gather information about dual citizens.
According to Thursday’s Helsingin Sanomat, a person with Finnish and Russian citizenship was also turned down a job in the foreign ministry because he was a dual national.
Another reason why dual citizenship has hit the headlines in Finland again is because municipal elections will take place on April 9. This may be a good way for government parties like the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset*, which have seen their poll numbers plummet, and its partners, the Center Party and National Coalition Party (NCP), to bolster support in the upcoming elections.
Another politician that was in favor of placing restrictions on dual nationals from getting jobs at the foreign ministry and defense forces is Prime Minister Juha Sipilä of the Center Party.
Before being elected as head of state, Niinistö was an NCP member.
Plans to discriminate against dual nationals in Finland may have also a lot to do with the present negative immigration and anti-cultural diversity climate in Finland, which has put pressure on political parties to scale back and water down laws that stand up for human rights and diversity.
Source: YLE News.
After Finland became a member of the European Union in 1995, it passed a number of liberal laws that fostered respect for diversity and human rights.
One of these new laws was the Constitution, which replaced in 1999 the former one that was in force since 1919. Section 6 of the present Constitution states:
“No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.”
Matti Jutila of the Finnish League for Human Rights believes that it will be difficult to draft a law that sees dual citizenship as an “acceptable reason” to exclude people from being hired at the foreign ministry or defense forces.
“I’m skeptical that dual citizenship is a reasonable cause,” he said, adding that background checks on whether a person is a security check should be improved and become the standard when hiring people for jobs that involve national security.
It is sad that Finland during a year when it celebrates is centennial as an independent nation is considering how to restrict and demote dual citizens to second-class status.
President Niinistö, who has said some pretty incredible things in the past about asylum seekers, appears adamant about dual nationals being security risks in some cases.
“The rationale for the law [that came into force in 2003] has, if not disappeared completely, then at least worked quite poorly,” he said after the state opening of parliament. “Conditions are completely different when we see what has happened. I think this is the main thing that I’d hope we could at least discuss.”
Even if President Niinistö considers “conditions are completely different” from when the law came into force, he didn’t say a word about how such restrictions on dual citizens could be seen as discriminatory and even unconstitutional.
President Niinstö believes that dual citizens may pose a security threat. Source: YLE.
Prime Minister Sipilä expressed the need for new laws that would places restrictions on dual nationals as necessary because of “loyalty” questions.
But does nationality determine loyalty?
In some respects, a blanket ban against dual citizens is similar to the travel ban that US President Donald Trump has imposed on Muslims from seven countries.
United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, considered Trump’s ban to be illegal under international human rights law. “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law,” he was quoted as saying in the Independent.
One draft law that aimed to place restrictions on dual nationals in Finland was sent back to the drawing board, according to Helsingin Sanomat. A new one is being drafted and if Spilä’s government has its way it will be voted on this year by parliament.
We believe that any legislation that legitimizes discrimination and is in conflict with Section 6 of our Constitution should be rejected.
Taking into account the present government’s plans to water down human rights and good anti-discrimination laws that came into force at around 2000, we hope that such efforts will come to naught.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”