Kurdish asylum seekers finished their hunger strike yesterday, October 8, 1997, after having written commitment from the Finnish Asylum Board and the Finnish Foreigner Bureau to investigate their asylum applications independently and in decent time. (The Asylum Board is a second-degree court to where complaints about the decisions of Foreigner Bureau are sent.) This was a compromise, to be sure, but the 6 Kurds and their Finnish friend who were driven to hospital were definitely eased, having speant 19 days outside in the windy and humid sea weather with almost zero degree temperature which had caused them severe health effects: diarrhea, low blood pressure, and infected wounds. The number of strikers varied, with the maximum number being 14, and on Wednesday there were 11.
Pressure from Finland and foreign countries influenced strongly Finnish officials. After the fax campaign started, a delegation from the Foreigner Bureau visited the hunger strikers. The leader of the Asylum Board talked for hours with the strikers by telephone, several MPs visited strikers, and the final culmination was the visit of the Minister of Domestic Affairs on Tuesday evening in which he promised that written commitments from officials would be sent the day after. After the written commitments were received, the hunger strike finished.
Maybe the victory was more psychological than concrete. The methods of the Foreigner Bureau were strongly put on question, and the best possible treatment is guaranteed for the Kurds who went on hunger strike. The situation was difficult from the very beginning, and the Foreigner Bureau was able to wash their hands because the complaints are an area of the Asylum Board, and the Asylum Board, thinking themselves to be an absolutely independent and objective dispenser of laws, hates to be pushed and is also severely backlogged up with tens of cases from other just as desperate people. Still, there is a danger that officials now think themselves to be saved and will continue their inhumane working practices as before. But this was only the first round, and if necessary, the asylum seekers will continue their pressure towards the officials who are making illegal decisions and mocking their commitment to international treaties.
Thanks once again for all who have sent faxes and made phone calls! Activism works!
Arm The Spirit
Thu, 9 Oct 1997
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