Sunday. 22.09.2019
El tiempo

Migri denies a residence permit to a man for being Muslim and younger than his Finnish wife

The Finnish Immigration Service argues in its decision that "it is unusual for a Muslim man to commit himself to a significantly older woman". The wife complains it is "humiliating being treated as a stupid".

An extract of Migri's decision. Image: © Foreigner.fi.
An extract of Migri's decision. Image: © Foreigner.fi.
Migri denies a residence permit to a man for being Muslim and younger than his Finnish wife

Mervi (pseudonym to protect her privacy) could not believe what she read when her husband Adel (also pseudonym) received two days ago the answer to his application for a residence permit in Finland: The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) had just denied him the right to reside with her legally in the country.

It was a misfortune, they both knew that might happen. After all, the Finnish authorities, in their eagerness to ensure that no one violates the Immigration Act, deny dozens of permits every week.

But the most striking shock for this couple came when they both read that among the reasons used by Migri to justify the decision, there was the fact that the husband is a Muslim and 16 years younger than her. "Cultural aspects must also be taken into account when considering residence permits", stress the Immigration officers in their conclusions.

Together for music

Mervi (Finnish, now 51 years old) and Adel (Tunisian, now 35) got to know each other almost three years ago via Internet. The passion they both feel for music led them to meet on a website dedicated to heavy metal. Thus, they began a long-distance relationship, which did not go further until almost one year later, when Mervi traveled to Tunisia to meet her boyfriend in July 2017.

The visit lasted two intense weeks, in which Mervi and Adel deepened in their love. In the fall of that year, they decided to get married, so she returned to Tunisia in March 2018 to celebrate the wedding. They were accompanied at the celebration by Adel's relatives and friends.

After the wedding, Mervi had to return to Finland, where she is studying, and Adel stayed in his country. Both kept in straight contact by talking daily by phone and via Skype, until they decided that they wanted to start a home in Finland. It took some time to collect all the documents. At the beginning of July 2018, Adel applied for a residence permit based on family ties.

A long year waiting

Since then, both spouses have had to keep their marriage alive by electronic means for a long year in which obviously they could not live together. When Migri finally made the decision they believed would end their suffering, the disappointment was immense. Adel's application had been denied.

According to the documents sent to the applicant, the main reason given by the Finnish Immigration Service in order to justify this refusal is "the lack of a shared life". In its conclusions, Migri says that keeping contact regularly via phone and the Internet, "cannot be considered as an indication of the actual purpose of spending family life".

"But how were we supposed to live together if we could not meet? I was here studying and my husband could not join me due to the lack of the residence permit", Mervi asks while talking on the phone with this reporter.

"This is humiliating"

However, the most annoying thing for the couple is what comes in the paragraph below:

Extract-Migri-decision

An extract of Migri's decision. Image: © Foreigner.fi

"Cultural aspects must also be taken into account when considering residence permits. The family sponsor (Mervi) is 16 years older than the applicant. In the light of the knowledge of the applicant´s domestic culture, it is unusual for a Muslim man to commit himself to a significantly older woman who is not a Muslim for the purpose of celebrating a common family life", says the decision.

The Finnish Immigration Service believes there is a "good reason to suspect that marriage has not been contracted in order to spend a common/shared family life but to obtain a residence permit for the applicant".

When asked what she thinks of Migri's argument, Mervi is sharp: "Nothing is more humiliating than being treated as a stupid, as someone unable to know if someone is taking advantage of me".

She also remarks that marrying older women "is not unusual" among Muslim men, "so there is no cultural issue", she insists. "They took away one year of our lives, not giving us a chance to have the life in common they demand from us". "And now, we are both treated as criminals!", she complains.

Asked what they plan to do now, she is also frank: "Of course, we are going to appeal this decision to the Administrative Court". "This is my marriage, our marriage, it is for a lifetime and we are both very seriously committed to it". "We will never give up", she warns.

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