Fears grow over Finland’s far-right vigilante group ‘Soldiers of Odin’…a civil war is coming to Europe it seems
- The far-right group Soldiers of Odin has begun patrolling cities in Finland
- Claiming to be protecting native Finns, the group opposes immigration
- Police are becoming increasingly concerned about its members’ intentions
Wearing black jackets adorned with a symbol of a Viking, Finnish white supremacists the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ have surfaced as self-proclaimed patriots patrolling the streets for immigrants.
Marching with banners and masks, and claiming to be protecting native Finns from immigrants, fears are now growing about their expanding presence and motivations.
On the northern fringes of Europe, Finland has little history of welcoming large numbers of refugees, unlike neighbouring Sweden.
But as with other European countries, it is now struggling with a huge increase in asylum seekers and the authorities are wary of any anti-immigrant vigilantism.
A group of young men founded Soldiers of Odin, named after a Viking god, late last year in the northern town of Kemi, a border community which has become an entry point for migrants.
Since then the group has expanded to other towns, with members stating they want to serve as eyes and ears for the police who they say are struggling to fulfil their duties.
Members blame ‘Islamist intruders’ for what they believe is an increase in crime and they have carried placards at demonstrations with slogans such as ‘Migrants not welcome’.
While most Finns disapprove of the group, its growth signals disquiet in a country strained by the cost of receiving the asylum seekers while mired in a three-year-old recession that has forced state spending and welfare cuts.
Like in nearby Germany, Finnish police have reported harassment of women by ‘men with a foreign background’ at New Year celebrations in Helsinki, as well as at some public events last autumn.
Police files show reported cases of sexual harassment in Finland almost doubled to 147 in the last four months of 2015 from 75 in the same period a year earlier. The figures give no ethnic breakdown of the alleged perpetrators.
However, the government has made clear
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