LOST CHILDREN – A child custody story of an immigrant family
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NEWSLETTER: Lokakuun liike (the October movement) is starting an international human rights campaign to help Ester, a victim of racist Child Protection services in Finland
Immigrant mother Ester has searched protection from the church. This happened because Finland hijacked her children and estranged them from their mother in a racist way.
WATCH THE NEW DOCUMENTARY "LOST CHILDREN – A child custody story of an immigrant family” HERE: http://www.lokakuunliike.com/ester. You can also watch the original documentary "KADONNEET LAPSET" in finnish here.
In this page http://www.lokakuunliike.com/ester you can also follow how the situation of Ester's family will develop in the future.
ESTER AND HER CHILDREN MOVED TO FINLAND IN THE YEAR 2010
African Ester had become a victim of human trafficking in South Europe. She came as an asylum seeker to Oulu in the year 2010 with her child.
In the Oulu Reception Center in Heikinharju her daughter complained about pain. The mother sought help for her child and took her to see a doctor. The doctor found an injury and at the same time there rose a suspicion that the child had been mistreated.
The child was placed in urgent custody before the mistreatment had been verified by a doctor’s inspection. The mother did not understand the situation – why her little daughter had to be separated from her – why they could not go together as a family.
CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES DIDN'T RETURN THE CHILDREN BACK HOME
After two days social workers came to tell Ester, now mother of a second child, that the oldest daughter will not return home. The distraught mother started to shout and cry. With the help of police Finnish authorities immediately removed the five-month-old child that the mother was still breastfeeding and placed her into foster care. Ester was put into a cell without a breast pump.
An investigator from the Police of Oulu informed Ester, soon after the investigation began, that she would not be charged with any crime against her first-born daughter. Nevertheless both children were placed into a big foster family while the maltreatment investigation was still going on. According to received information one of the foster parents is employed as an authority in an institution in Oulu that is co-operating with the Child Protection Services. Ester received an official decision about the end of the crime investigation in spring 2014 when the Supreme Administrative Court had already confirmed the custody process.
The Child Protection Services have prosecuted the mother for abuse of her baby. The case is about the situation when social workers visited Ester to tell her that the first-born daughter will remain in custody for at least one month. The fact that Ester in this situation lost her temper and started to shout at them in shock while carrying her baby surprised the Finnish authorities. This led them to decide to take the infant away as well, resulting in the child losing her right to the mother's milk. The trial in the Court of Appeal will be in February 2016 when it is going to be four and half years since the children were taken away from her.
CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES PREVENTS REUNIFICATION OF THE FAMILY
Since these events, for four whole years, Ester has not been allowed to be alone with her children without a Finnish guardian present. Currently the mother is allowed to meet her both children under supervision in the Oulu shelter, three hours at a time.
Since Ester is now married and the father of the younger child has also moved to Finland, they were given an additional supervised meeting time for 3 hours each month with the younger child.
After receiving a residence permit in Finland, Ester lived a whole three years in her own apartment in Oulu in a good and safe area away from the Reception Center, where many Finnish families live. During that time, her children were never allowed to visit their mother's home and the social worker, who was in charge of the family, did not bother or possibly did not have time to visit Ester to see how she lives.
PRACTISES OF THE CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES SEEM RACIST BUT CITIZENS SUPPORT ESTER
Ester’s parenthood has not been supported in any way during the custody process. The children’s location has been kept secret from her and she gets almost no information about her children.
The children are growing separated from their mother, language and culture because no language teaching has been allowed. Still today the social workers keep stating that the children do not need to learn English, since they now live in Finland and they can start learning English at school at the age of nine like Finnish children do. Use of the African mother tongue has been forbidden from the very beginning.
The children’s connection to their family and culture has been totally broken. The mother is not allowed to keep any contact with her children between the supervised meetings.
Even though the action of the Child Protection Services in Ester's case has seemed racist, Ester feels that she has received altruistic support from ordinary Finnish people. She has not experienced direct racism in Finland.
LEGAL PROTECTION OF THE CLIENTS OF THE CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES IN FINLAND IS INADEQUATE
There is no comprehensive information about the experiences of immigrants or Finnish residents as clients of Child Protection Services. According to one investigation, parenthood of immigrants is in some cases evaluated by different standards than the parenthood of Finnish people. A decent family is often seen as a middle class Finnish family and other family forms are measured against that.
Master of Laws Leeni Ikonen, one of the most experienced lawyers in Finland concerning child custody cases, started as Ester's lawyer in June 2013. Two years passed until they had used all the few, slow and inefficient means that Finnish law offers for a family to appeal in a case like this. Finally in the summer 2015, two years later, they received the information that the Supreme Administrative Court has also accepted the continuation of the custody and the meeting restrictions. Now they can finally appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
"European Court of Human Rights has given several verdicts against Finland in Child Protection cases", Leeni Ikonen states.
Actually, in her applications to the Child Protection Services of Oulu and in the Court appeals following those, Leeni Ikonen has from the beginning been referring to previous verdicts that Finland has received from the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately even that has not changed the way new families are being treated in Finland today.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN BY OCTOBER MOVEMENT
Because of all this, as the last means, Lokakuun liike is starting an international human rights campaign to draw the world's attention on how Finnish authorities are treating immigrants in a member state of the European Union today.
The Finnish state that has ratified several international human rights agreements, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which in the case of Ester's family has been grossly violated by several authorities in Oulu already for years. You can participate in the appeal by following the advice here: http://www.lokakuunliike.com/ester, where you can also follow how the situation of Ester's family will develop in the future.
Lokakuun liike has produced a documentary: ”LOST CHILDREN – A child custody story of an immigrant family” can be viewed on the same page.
Letters and other writings Lokakuun liike
☞ October Movement
☞ October Manifesto
☞ The Declaration of October movement
☞ An advisory for child welfare clients
☞ Open letter to Committee for the Prevention of Torture
☞ Henriikka Kurhela - My Story