The Finnish Somali League has condemned the practice of taking children away from Finland against their will.
On Sunday Helsingin Sanomat reported that each year a few young people who had lived in Finland and who had been sent back to Somalia by their parents, appear at the Finnish Embassy in neighbouring Ethiopia saying that they want to go back to Finland.
Reasons for sending the children back to Somalia have included behavioural problems, or marriage.
Somali League chairman Arshe Said says that conditions in Somalia are so unsettled that it is not safe to send children there alone.
“If the parents return to Finland, the children need to come with them”, Said says.
Said says that he was surprised to read about the children who had been forced to leave Finland by their families. He says that he did not know that Somali families in Finland were doing this kind of thing.
Said blames the lack of information on his association’s meagre resources. In his view, the League needs to improve its cooperation with officials, so that information on such cases would go in both directions.
The article tells about a girl with a Somali background, who had been a month away from school before she got to go back to Finland.
Laura Nurminen, chair of the Helsinki Teachers’ Union, said that schools will always contact a family if a pupil has been away for such a long time.
“Parents can give as a reason for a long break that it is the only opportunity to see family members in Somalia. A school does not have the right to question such reasons”, Nurminen says.
Nurminen proposes that in suspicious cases a teacher could take up requests for a longer absence with a group that includes a school psychologist, guidance counsellor, and head teacher. This group could then report the case to child welfare services.
Nurminen points out that it is hard for a teacher to intervene in matters outside the school, even though Finland has mandatory education.
“We have gone too far here in privacy protection. Professionals can only discuss matters relating to a child, which are necessary from the point of view of organising education.
An English language version of the full article on Somali children being sent back to Somalia will be featured among our weekly articles on Tuesday.