Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin has called for expedition of a legislative amendment to ensure that the right of children who have sought international protection to receive basic education free of charge is safeguarded by law. This is required by both the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Ministry of Education and Culture to inform her, by the end of February, of what stage has been reached in preparatory work in the matter.
Last winter, the Eduskunta deliberated a Bill dealing with the reception of persons seeking international protection. The Constitutional Law Committee considered it important in that conjunction that children's right to basic education free of charge be safeguarded in legislation as soon as possible. The reform was included in the Programme for Government adopted by the coalition headed by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.
The Deputy-Ombudsman investigated the matter on her own initiative. It had been found on an inspection visit in 2010 that basic education had not been arranged for children who had arrived in the country unaccompanied and were accommodated in Siuntio. This was different from the practice observed by other municipalities.
Siuntio claimed that it did not have a statutory obligation to arrange teaching. The municipality has subsequently changed its position, and since last autumn children have been able to take part in courses intended for immigrants.
Guidelines and advice for municipalities
The Deputy-Ombudsman is also concerned that a child who has arrived unaccompanied may be deprived of child welfare services, because harmonisation of the legislation regulating different sectors of administration and official practices is proving difficult.
The problem was highlighted after the Ombudsman had received documents containing inaccuracies and erroneous information from a child welfare authority. They were apparently due to the authority's unfamiliarity with the procedure for seeking asylum.
Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin has recommended to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health that they collaborate to arrange guidelines and advice for municipal child welfare authorities.
Guidelines are needed in situations where a child's status is determined on the basis of both the legislation regulating the reception of a person seeking international protection and promotion of integration of immigrants, on the one hand, and at the same time the Child Welfare Act and other social welfare legislation, on the other.
Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin asked the ministries to inform her, by the beginning of April, whether her recommendation had warranted measures on their part.
Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Kirsti Kurki-Suonio, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3357.