Undocumented migrants and church shelter

Rear view of unrecognizable parent of elder brother holding hand of child against tent in migrant camp

The Christian faith involves helping those in need, regardless of their nationality, religion or gender. Church shelter is the centuries-old Christian tradition of permitting marginalised groups to seek refuge at churches.

In Finland, church shelter means that parishes offer spiritual and material support for rejected asylum seekers, for example, and help them plead their case with the authorities.

Church shelter is an open activity that aims to ensure the rightful treatment of migrants living in Finland. The Church does not hide people or maintain a parallel asylum system.

Emeritus archbishop Kari Mäkinen has emphasised that the Church has a good working relationship with the authorities and stated that parishes are bound to secrecy and confidentiality in their work. Mäkinen sees collaboration with the authorities as vital and essential, but believes it must always be based on the needs and consent of the person in need.

The refugee’s right to family life

Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland have on various occasions pleaded for a more humane asylum and immigration policy and voiced concerns over how the increasingly strict criteria for bringing families together affect the well-being of families and children.

Regardless of their social, cultural or religious background, every adult and child has the right to safety, care and a family life. The decisions and actions of public authorities must be founded on a thinking that takes the family into account. Isolating family members only makes integration more difficult.

People must also be offered safe, legal routes to Europe. Purposeful efforts are needed to promote peace and better living conditions, to provide help in the midst of conflict and to increase openness to accepting those seeking asylum. These must not be considered contrary to each other or options.

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