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Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin criticises children's hearings at foreign missions

Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin said she was not convinced that children's rights, legal protection and best interests are implemented in hearings associated with family reunification applications at Finland's foreign missions. The Deputy-Ombudsman investigated the issue on her own initiative and found that questionable and incorrect procedures were in use.

The missions have varying practices regarding the exercise of a child's right to speak and the persons who can be present at a hearing, and some of these practices are incorrect. Children are frequently heard without the presence of their guardian, legal representative or a familiar adult. Instructions issued on these matters were inadequate.

- It is vital that each public servant who interviews children is familiar with the special features of interviewing a child and key legislation applicable to children's rights, consideration of a child's best interest and hearing a child, Sakslin stresses.

The Deputy-Ombudsman said that the practical arrangements of interviews concerning family ties have their own special characteristics, and fulfilling the requirements associated with realising children's rights may be challenging and complicated. However, the realisation of a child's best interests and legal protection cannot be overlooked merely because of practical difficulties. Improved solutions for implementing a child's best interest should thus be sought. The authorities should actively promote the realisation of children's rights. The Deputy-Ombudsman informed the Finnish Immigration Service and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of her views concerning the need to modify and complement the instructions issued to the authorities on hearing children.

The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin's decisions no 2282/2/15 and 1088/4/16 was published in Finnish at www.oikeusasiamies.fi