Conscientious objection to military service
The length of the civilian alternative to military service remained punitive and discriminatory. Conscientious objectors were obliged to perform 395 days of civilian service, 215 days longer than military service. In October a Ministry of Labour working group proposed shortening the civilian service and recognizing conscientious objection in times of war or other public emergency.
AI considered 11 imprisoned conscientious objectors to military service to be prisoners of conscience. Most served sentences of 197 days for refusing to perform alternative civilian service.
Violence against women
In January the Minister of Social Affairs and Health admitted to AI the need for increased co-ordination among government ministries and for the creation of an action plan on preventing violence against women. No such plan had been produced by the end of 2006.
An updated AI survey in May found that Finnish municipalities lacked the political will, co-ordination, expertise and resources to eradicate violence against women, although a few were doing pioneering work.
An official study in December found that 43.5 per cent of women in Finland were victims of physical or sexual violence or threats of violence by men.
Trafficking in human beings
Under the 2005 national action plan against trafficking, a detailed system for aiding and protecting victims of trafficking was devised, but funding remained uncertain. A special residence permit for victims of trafficking was created under the Aliens Act, but the granting of permits to victims was ordinarily conditional on their co-operation with the authorities.
Finland ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, and signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Accelerated asylum-determination procedures under the Aliens Act allowed too short a time for claims to be considered thoroughly and for asylum-seekers to exhaust all avenues of appeal.
An increasing number of people were granted temporary residence permits, resulting in a corresponding increase in the number denied the right to work or family reunification, and allowed only restricted access to education and social and health care.
Unfair residence permit procedures
Residence permits were denied solely on the basis of information from the security police withheld from the applicant. However, in June, Kuopio Administrative Court quashed a refusal to grant a residence permit because the immigration authorities had refused to disclose to the applicant information provided by the security police, denying him a fair hearing. An appeal by the authorities to the Supreme Administrative Court was pending.
In January, Pakistani national Qari Muzaffar Iqbal Naeemi was granted asylum. In 2002 his request for a renewal of his residence permit had been denied. In 2003 his deportation had been ordered on the basis of information that remained undisclosed.