Immigration Law To Be Made Grandmother-Proof By Autumn

Immigration Law to be Made Grandmother-Proof by Autumn

By Janne Huuskonen
The Helsinki Times, June 3, 2010

According to an aide to the Minister of Immigration, proper scrutiny of reform proposals will take time.

The law may be made more sympathetic to foreign grandmothers as soon as this coming autumn. But the two women who inspired the proposed reform, Egyptian Eveline Fadayel and Russian Irina Antonova, will not be spared their fate. Both must leave the country within the near future.

The police cannot stop and wait for a possible change to the law, because they cant know when and in what form it will take force. Time has run out, National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero told the Finnish News Agency (STT).

In March the Supreme Administrative Court ruled against granting a residence permit to Fadayel, 65, and Antonova, 82, on the basis of their families residing in Finland.

This caused a sensation and compelled Prime Minister Matti Vanhanens (Centre) government to agree on a fast-tracked amendment to the law that would grant authorities additional discretion to consider
humanitarian factors.

President Tarja Halonen was among those who came out strongly in favour of the two women. For their part, the police said that they would not hasten implementation of decision to deport the grandmothers.

Early last week the police changed their approach and initiated proceedings to deport Fadayel. At the same time, it emerged that any legal reform would not be ready before the summer. On 26 May, the
Ministry for the Interior announced that the proposal is in the final stages of preparation.

The aim is to give authorities greater discretion in granting residence permits to the relatives of Finnish citizens who are not part of the citizens nuclear family. The proposal should be before
parliament by the autumn.

Vanhanen disappointed

Prime Minister Vanhanen declared himself extremely disappointed that his government had not managed to help the two grandmothers. He has met the relatives of both women.

Ive told them that the government is striving to change the law and that this could open an opportunity to submit a new application, Vanhanen said.

That hasnt been possible within this timetable, and its an extreme pity, thats all I can say. The governments intentions havent changed one bit, we just need to find a workable legislative proposal.

As of 26 May, Vanhanen had no details of the sort of problems to emerge in preparing the proposal.

According to Thomas Bergman, aide to Minister of Immigration Astrid Thors (Swed. Peoples Party), one cause for delay was the desire of parliaments Administration Committee to investigate whether
procedures could be adjusted without recourse to legal reform.

The investigations have been requested and carried out, and thats taken time. Theyve established that a change to procedures will require a change to the law, Bergman told STT.

Critics fear new leniency

Efforts to change the law in response to the grandmothers plight have not met with support alone, however. Critics of immigration have expressed fear that the change will trigger an explosion in the
number of such cases in Finland.

Under the current system, residence permits may be granted to non-nuclear family members if they are completely dependent on their relatives living in Finland, or if the purpose is to continue more tightly knit family life.

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, a slight loosening of the wording will prompt a small increase in the amount of positive decisions on residence permit applications. Conversely, a major loosening will see a large increase.

Bergman says that the impact of any legal change must be carefully considered before a proposal can be placed before parliament.