World News

Helsinki police report 15 sexual harassment cases on New Years Eve

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish police are investigating 15 reported cases of sexual assault of women near Helsinki city centre on New Year’s Eve carried out by men of foreign appearance some of whom were likely to be asylum seekers, a police report said on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by the Finnish government, reflects similar events in Germany where more than 600 women in Cologne and other cities filed complaints of sexual molestation on the New Year’s weekend, deepening public doubts about Germany’s ‘open door’ policy on refugees and migrants.

The Helsinki police report said they had received reports of one rape, two attempted rapes and 12 cases of sexual harassment by several groups of 10-20 men with foreign backgrounds who roamed around the city centre during New Year celebrations.

Those suspected of the offences were asylum seekers or men with foreign characteristics, it said.

“The sexual harassment consisted of groping and squeezing of the victims’ bodies and licking of their faces, committed by the suspects of the crimes,” the report said.

“The individuals in these groups possibly had a premeditated tactic in which some of the suspects had surrounded the victim and some had carried out the activities that fulfil the characteristics of a crime,” it said.

“In three of the cases, we have identified suspects who are all asylum seekers. The suspects in the other cases also have foreign charecteristics”, Detective Superintendent Jonna Turunen told Reuters separately.

Last year, about 32,000 asylum seekers came to Finland, most of them from Iraq and Somalia, well up from the 3,600 in 2014 and putting a strain on the recession-bound Nordic country.

Unlike neighbouring Sweden, Finland has little history of welcoming large numbers of refugees and the sudden influx of migrants has caused authorities to be wary of anti-immigrant feeling turning into vigilantism.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell and Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Richard Balmforth