The breakdown of the Cold War practices of deportation and the emergence of the current principles

Matti Välimäki (2022). In: P. Pirkkalainen, E. Lyytinen, S. Pellander (Eds.): Suomesta Poistetut. Näkökulmia karkotuksiin ja käännytyksiin. Vastapaino.


The activities of the authorities and the treatment of non-citizens have roots. In this article, I explain how the Finnish practices of deportation during the Cold War differ from the practices of the 21st century. The article is based on the authorities' archive materials, but I also highlight how the agency of those who are the targets of the measures, and live under the threat of deportation, can be read from the archival documents.

The legal framework for deportation during the Cold War left considerable room for discretion by the authorities. From the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, we witness a change in policies and legislation. Finland's foreign policy changed, the global bloc division ended, and the domestic fundamental rights system was redefined. The development was mediated by changes in the legislation and practices concerning foreigners and the orientation of politics towards Western European cooperation. The legal protection of foreigners, including deportees, strengthened in legislation and authorities’ activities. More robust justifications and transparency were demanded from the authorities. At the same time, the numbers of immigration, asylum seekers and deportations, as well as the number of appeals, increased.

The foreign and security policy emphasis on the treatment of foreigners has decreased, or at least modified, since the Cold War when the Security police has been excluded from the inspection of travel documents and conducting asylum interviews and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from the asylum procedure. The special treatment of asylum seekers coming across the eastern border of Finland ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the new era, the principle of the prohibition of returning anyone to a country ‘where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm’, based on international human rights law, characterizes national legislation and authorities’ activities. Another novel phenomenon are the transfers of asylum applicants between other EU member states.

Download of the full chapter here (in Finnish, chapter 5).