Academic journal article Refuge

Deportation vs. Sanctuary: The Rationalities, Technologies, and Subjects of Finnish Sanctuary Practices

Academic journal article Refuge

Deportation vs. Sanctuary: The Rationalities, Technologies, and Subjects of Finnish Sanctuary Practices

Article excerpt

Evangelical Lutheran parishes and their representatives have provided sanctuaries for asylum seekers for forty years in Finland. Yet this activity became widely publicly recognized only after the Finnish Ecumenical Council released the "Church as Sanctuary" document in 2007. The parishes are assisted by many civic organizations (e.g. women's organizations, Free Movement Network, Amnesty International, and Finnish Refugee Council) in providing sanctuary. They share the same opponent: the state's strict asylum policy. The various parties involved in Finnish sanctuary incidents can be divided into two groups using the terminology of the Foucaldian analytics of pastoral power: a state pastorate and the civic/church pastorate. The former tries to secure the vitality of its 'flock," the Finnish population, through strict control over asylum seekers. The latter pastorate challenges the state's sovereignty to define its accepted members by offering alternative ways for asylum seekers to stay in the country and an alternative understanding of who this 'flock" should include. In this article I analyze how these parties construct their subjectivities and the asylum-seeker's subjectivity in the sanctuary incidents. Despite seeming opposition between the two pastorates, there are similarities in the ways by which they seek to clarify the inner soul-life of the asylum seekers and make them knowable and governable.

Les paroisses evangeliques lutheriennes de Finlande et leurs partenaires fournissent le sanctuaire aux demandeurs d'asile depuis quarante ans. Pourtant, cette activite n'a ete largement reconnue publiquement qu'apres la publication en 2007 du document Kirkko turvapaikkana (L'eglise refuge) par le conseil oecumenique de Finlande. Les paroisses sont assistes par de nombreuses organisations civiques (p. ex., organisations feminines, reseau Libre circulation (Vapaa liikkuvuus), Amnistie internationale, conseil Finlandais pour les refugies) en fournissant l'asile. Elles partagent un meme adversaire : la politique rigoureuse de l'Etat sur l'asile. Les parties impliquees dans des cas de sanctuaire en Finlande peuvent etre divises en deux groupes selon la terminologie de l'analyse foucaldienne du pouvoir pastoral : le pastorat etatique et le pastorat civique/chretien. Le premier cherche a assurer la vitalite de son << troupeau >>, la population finlandaise, a travers un controle strict sur les demandeurs d'asile. En offrant aux demandeurs d'asile des solutions de rechange pour rester au pays et une autre comprehension de la composition de ce << troupeau >>, le second met en cause le droit souverain de l'Etat de definir ses membres acceptes. Dans cet article, j'analyse comment ces parties construisent leurs subjectivites et la subjectivite du demandeur dasile dans les cas de sanctuaire. Malgre une opposition apparente entre les deux pastorats, il y a des similarites dans la maniere par laquelle tous deux cherchent a purifier l'ame humaine des demandeurs d'asile et a rendre ceux-ci connaissables et gouvernables.


The question of the day is: can the church offer sanctuary for the asylum seeker? (1)

Pay attention to the spiritual condition of the applicant and take care of her/his daily endurance. [...] Start to clarify the situation of the applicant. Ask to see all the personal papers related to the application for asylum and to the situation of the applicant. [...] Discuss with the experts, especially lawyers familiar with the refugee justice. (2)


Finland is well known for its strict immigration and asylum policies. Two thousand people came to Finland as asylum seekers in 2006, but only 386 had their applications approved. Every year, most asylum seekers are turned away. Some are sent back to their countries of origin. Very recently there have been several publicized cases in which migrants, with the crucial aid of civic organizations and some parishes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, have managed to stay in Finland and reverse deportation decisions in the end. …

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