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Authorities Reconsider Expulsion Order For Kurds

December 31, 1988

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) _ Bowing to pressure from humanitarian groups, authorities agreed to reconsider their order to expel eight Turkish Kurds seeking political asylum, refugee officials said.

Amnesty International and the Finnish Red Cross joined appeals on behalf of the Kurds, who were on a hunger strike in jail.

Finnish television and several newspapers said Friday that the authorities agreed to study the case again. Refugee officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the report but declined to elaborate.

The eight Kurds ″would face certain persecution if sent back to Turkey,″ said Tuula Kojo, spokesman for a group formed to keep the Kurds in Finland, which has one of the strictest immigration policies in Europe.

Kojo said all had a history of trouble at home, which should justify their asylum requests. He did not say if the Kurds were members of the outlawed Kurdish Labor Party, which has fought a four-year guerrilla war to set up an independent Marxist state in parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey.

Kurds are a stateless minority of about 20 million living mainly in Iraq and Turkey.

The eight Kurds arrived in Helsinki by ferry from Poland on Nov 1. They were allowed to stay in a suburban refugee center until Tuesday, when the Aliens Office decided to deport them. The Kurds refused to leave the center, and were jailed.

Seppo Tiitinen, head of the security police - which reviews all asylum applications - said earlier this week the Kurds had not ″been able to demonstrate in any way that they had reason to fear persecution if returned to their own country.″

The director of the Aliens Office, Matti Backman, refused comment, saying, ″It could endanger the persons in question.″

Leading Finnish politicians and public figures have been critical of Finland’s refugee policy in the past. Last year the archbishop of the Finnish Lutheran Church, John Vikstrom, accused the government of being ″two-faced over the issue of refugees.″

The Finns, a people of 4.9 million in a country the size of Britain, have granted political asylum to four cases from 60 applicants this year. Eleven were given residence permits, 13 cases were pending and the rest were rejected or withdrawn, the Aliens Office said.

Neighboring Sweden, by contrast, gave political asylum to 16,000 refugees.

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