Minister of European and Migration Affairs Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party) and Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (Nat. Coalition Party) are concerned with reports that Thai women married to Finnish men in Finland are often victims of domestic violence. Both ministers give cautious support to the idea that the background of a potential Finnish husband should be examined when assessing a residence permits application of a Thai girlfriend or future wife, to see if the man has a history of violent behaviour. A recent study has shown that a disproportionate number of Thai women married to Finnish men suffer physical and mental abuse.
“It is something that could be considered”, said Thors in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat. Holmlund was more sceptical. She said that it is important to avoid labelling people. If it were a standard practice in the Nordic Countries, Holmlund feels that an interview of a prospective husband could be considered in Finland.
“There would have to be some clear evidence, so that we do not start out from the assumption that everyone is necessarily a criminal”, Holmlund said.
Some of the women live underground, or easily end up as sex workers in “Thai massage parlours”. Articles about the issue has led to a brisk online debate. A Finnish man living in Sweden said that before he got a residence permit for his Thai fiancé, he was called into the Swedish Immigration Service for an interview. He was asked if he has been sentenced for a violent crime, or had a restraining order placed on him.
“Wise questions: wife beaters and rapists need not ruin the rosy expectations of love of a hopeful immigrant”, the man wrote.
Thors says that she had always felt that social welfare officials give sufficient help in domestic violence situations. She says that it is clear that targeted action is needed to help Thai women in particular. As examples she mentions a new telephone hotline, which has been granted funding from the early part of the year as part of an EU-funded project. It is the first project aimed at more efficient integration of Thai women. Thors emphasises the role of non-governmental organisations in successful integration.
“Organisations can succeed in things that officials are not capable of.”
Holmlund agrees with Thors: “This is typically the kind of thing that the third sector is also needed. She feels that the police cannot take on the roles linked with immigrant integration. Police know that an older Thai woman who runs a massage parlour can recruit young women to work for her. Many of them have worked practically without pay, and have ended up selling sex services.