Monitoring work in practice 

Assessing the enforcement of the removals from the country from the perspective of fundamental and human rights is at the core of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman’s monitoring work. Removal of vulnerable individuals from the country, such as those suffering from mental and physical health problems, children, people with disabilities, and victims of human trafficking are at the centre of the monitoring work. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman also monitors cases in which there is a high risk of the use of force by the police and in which individuals are returned to countries with difficult conditions (such as Afghanistan and Iraq). 

Preparing for the monitoring and monitoring work in practice

The extent of the monitoring varies. It may cover all stages of the process. In that case, the monitors monitor the enforcement of the removal from the country, from the interview with the returnee to the handover of the individual concerned in the country of destination. The monitoring may only cover a specific stage of the removal process, such as the journey from the detention unit to the aircraft. During the removal from the country, the monitor is present whenever the individual to be removed from the country is accompanied by the police.

The monitor prepares background reports to determine which cases should be monitored and to determine the conditions of the individuals to be removed. The monitors receive information from official registers, obtain documents and are in contact with the police, personnel at reception centres and detention units and health services. The returnees’ assistants or support persons may also provide the monitors with details of the returnees’ life situation and conditions.

In their concrete monitoring work, the monitors observe and record the situation of the returnee and the action taken by the police throughout the process. The monitors pay attention to such matters as whether the returnees have been aware of the departure time, to what extent they have been able to prepare for the departure, consideration given to the vulnerability or health of the returnees, and the treatment of the returnees. Particular attention is paid to resistance and the resulting use of force by the police. The monitor can also talk to the returnee during the journey. If the monitoring assignment also covers the journey to the country of destination, the assignment will end when the authorities in the country of destination receive the returnee and accept their arrival in the country.

The monitors provide the police with feedback after the operation

The monitors provide the police with written feedback on the removal operation. Feedback is provided on both good practices and inadequacies observed by the monitors. Consideration of the returnees’ rights and wellbeing and whether the police have acted in humane manner are some of the matters assessed in the feedback. Recording and disseminating of the good practices observed by the monitors is an important part of the monitors’ work. If the monitors notice serious inadequacies in the work of the police, these can be referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland for evaluation.

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and the monitors also meet with senior police officers on a regular basis and take part in the training of escort police officers. In addition to the police, other cooperation partners include border control authorities, administrative courts, reception centres, detention units, health services and returnees’ assistants.

Issues highlighted by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman

The criticism has mostly concerned interpreting or the failure to notify the returnees of the departure date in advance. In such cases, the returnees have not always been able to make all the necessary arrangements before leaving Finland. The monitors have also drawn attention to the fact that returnees’ contacts with their assistants or other parties have occasionally been restricted. There have also been inadequacies in the safeguarding of medication. If the individual ordered to be removed from the country resists the removal, the escorts may use force within the framework of the law and their powers. The monitors have rarely had anything negative to report on the use of force. According to the monitors’ observations, many of the practices have improved over the past few years and more consideration is now given to fundamental rights in the process.