2 minutes and 52 seconds. That is how long it took Deacon Anne Immonen to read one rejected asylum application in Kamppi chapel in the center of Helsinki. In the letter to the applicant, the Finnish Immigration Service admits that the applicant has every reasons to think his life is in danger in his homeland Afghanistan. But in a few minutes his destiny is sealed and according to the letter he has to face either returning back home or applying for shelter somewhere else.
In churches around Finland rejected asylum applications are being read aloud since last week. In the Kamppi chapel rejection letters are read by Deacon Anne Immonen and Priest Nanna Helaakoski. The read-aloud started along with preparations for the Christian holiday of Easter.
Vicar Stefan Forsén from the Matteus parish emphasizes that reading aloud the rejection letters is not a demonstration against the civil servants in charge of writing them.
“As I read the asylum application decisions, I consider that the person who has written them also had great empathy towards the applicant. I shouldn’t think they have anything against asylum seekers. It is written that all the criteria to grant asylum is being met but still a residence permit cannot be given. That is because of a political decision behind the process”, says Vicar Stefan Forsén.
The church updated its refugee protection policy last autumn. According to the church policy church offers aid and assistance to asylum seekers without legal status and all others in vulnerable position, asking for help.
Coordinator of multicultural work at the Johannes parish Carre Lönnqvist thinks it is important that the church is taking a stance to support those vulnerable.
“I think it is vital that we are reminded of the absurd and unjust situation, where someone is forced to return to a place and conditions where they have just fled from”, Carre Lönnqvist says.
“It is like an open wound in our society, when many asylum seekers are being rejected”, Vicar Stefan Forsén says. “Standing behind our elected politicians it is also every one of us that admits the asylum seekers have every right to feel threatened in their own countries, but still that is not enough to grant them with shelter.”
Editor: Anna Gustafsson