Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration, 2008

Short Term Visiting Fellowship


Geetisha Dasgupta
Research & Programme Associate, CRG.

Her Visiting Report (25.02.09-04.03.2009)

Select Immigration Experiences of Highly Skilled Migrants from South Asia to Finland 

First and foremost I thank Dr Ranabir Samaddar, Dr Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Dr Samir Kumar Das and Dr Paula Banerjee and everybody else at CRG for giving me this wonderful opportunity to visit Finland for a short study of Select Immigration Experiences of Highly Skilled Migrants from South Asia to Finland. I also must express my gratitude to all the people in Finland who extended their support to make the study visit fruitful. Finland was a great experience and my first window to the Nordic world. 

I met Professor Peter Krauss, Professor Sirpa Wrede and Ms Sanna Saksela from Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN), Helsinki University, who were very helpful in letting me understand the take off period of highly skilled immigration in Finland, which is the area of migration I am committed to look in to for this brief period of study. CEREN was helpful throughout.  

I met two trade union bodies like the AKAVA and the SAK. The first one deals specifically with highly skilled migrants, while the second one has the blue collared job holders as their affiliates. STTK is the umbrella union body of professionals and has a midway path to follow. But time constraints could not fit an appointment with them in my schedule. Discussions with the first two have been very fruitful and they were very interested about ways in which South Asia is increasingly making its presence felt on the economic pulse of Finland. The office of Ms Annika Forsander at the Human Resources Centre, Immigration Division in Helsinki has also kindly agreed to answer all our queries over email since we missed the scheduled appointment on account of flight delay. 

I must mention our presentation at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) with warm memories. The coffee table discussion on subjects from India was, if I may say so, well received. I presented a paper on Right to Food situation in West Bengal with special reference to the Dooars as a case study. Food rights violation and the tea economy were discussed over a number of questions from the audience. I am grateful to Eeva Puumala, Unto Vesa and Anitta Kynsilehto for having answered my queries specific to my own research interest for this fellowship programme.  

I must also express my gratitude to Ms Sanna Selin, Ms Ksenia Glebova and Ms Tiina Kanninen for having let me visit and study Finland. I thank my dear friend and colleague Ms Ishita Dey for having orchestrated this study visit so very efficiently, without which this would have been impossible.


Sahana Basavapatna
She is a lawyer by training and currently coordinates the Refugee program in a Delhi based Advocacy and Campaigning organization called The Other Media

Her Visiting Report (25.02.09-04.03.2009)

Implementation of the Finnish Alien's Act, 2004 in the context of the European Common Asylum Policy 

As a Junior Research Fellow, I visited Finland from 25 February to 4 March 2009. My area of research was on the Finnish asylum policy and in an attempt to understand this, I had mainly two central and interconnected questions. The first is to understand the implementation of the provisions of the Finnish Alien's Act, 2004 to asylum seekers, the framework of rights enshrined therein and the ongoing discussions and proposal to amend certain provisions as applicable to asylum seekers.  

In doing so, I also intend to contextualize the legislation within the larger European Common Asylum System (or CEAS as it is normally referred to), the process for which goes back to the 1990s and earlier, when European countries began the process of harmonizing policies towards a single market economy. While the first phase of the CEAS, which concluded in 2004 involved the adoption of minimum standards of refugee protection throughout Europe, countries are expected to harmonize their domestic policies with this common asylum policy in the second phase, which is currently underway. While it is hoped that countries across Europe would harmonize asylum policies, one can expect that they would also face challenges in the actual implementation in their national policy. 

The second central question, related to the first is to do with the extent of relevance of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees in the European context considering that historical and political developments have changed not only the context in which we witness population flows, but also the European response to it. Seen in this context, to what extend does the Finnish asylum policy keep up with the spirit of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, a document considered to be one of the pillers of international refugee law. While some Finnish organizational representatives argue that the 1951 Convention is still relevant as it is the basis for refugee status under the Alien's Act, 2004, others note that the spirit of the 1951 Convention is being watered down. It would be useful to keep in mind the changing character of refugee protection and the several categories created across countries such as “refugee status”, “subsidiary protection” and “temporary protection”. These categorizations would be analysed in the Finnish context.  

For convenience, I wish to take the Somali refugee community and its experience of refugee protection as an example throughout, for two reasons. It is not only the second largest refugee community in Finland after Iraqis but the fact that Somali nationals claim refugee status in India is also an opportunity to look at the protection situations in these two countries as a comparative study.