Professor Elina Pirjatanniemi receives the ETMU Award in Tampere.
Professor Elina Pirjatanniemi receives the ETMU Award in Tampere.

The ETMU Award is granted annually in recognition of a major contribution to the promotion of or research on ethnic relations and international migration in Finland.

The ETMU Award 2019 was granted to Professor Elina Pirjatanniemi at the ETMU Conference at Tampere University on November 14, 2019.

Elina Pirjatanniemi has relentlessly defended human rights. She is a scholar whose academic merits are beyond doubts but who through these merits makes the world a bit of a better place by speaking out for human rights of those whose rights tend to be forgotten. Pirjatanniemi does not only do excellent research, but she is very active in discussing research results in public. In addition, she does not shy away from conflict and from criticizing decision makers in Finnish society.

Pirjatanniemi works as a Professor of Constitutional and International Law as well as a Director of the Institute for Human Rights at Åbo Akademi. She is an alumni of both the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi and carries the title of Docent in Criminal Law at the University of Turku.

Elina Pirjatanniemi works in the focus areas of ETMU as a teacher, researcher and expert. She has among others studied asylum and immigration law, human rights in the context of criminal law, human rights and societal change as well as the relation of national and international law. She actively partakes in the development of research and international cooperation. In addition, she is or has had positions of trust in organizations such as Crisis Management Initiative, Finnish League for Human Rights, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, National Human Rights Institution Committee, Ministry of Justice, and Steering Group for Migration Issues.

Pirjatanniemi is often invited and consulted as an expert on issues of asylum and migration issues. She is an eloquent and witty public speaker and a gifted writer. She writes columns for Turun Sanomat and Hufvudstadsbladet. In her writings and public appearances, she has taken a stand in very relevant questions, such as the threat that the activities of the Finnish far right poses to human and fundamental rights and for a democratic society. She has publically spoken up about the rights of asylum seekers, the different issues related to refugees and their rights as well as the rights of children in asylum processes.

Elina Pirjatanniemi has previously received the Communicator of the Year Award for successful academic communication in 2018, the Queen Kristina Research Prize for successful research in 2016, the Finnish Lawyer’s Association best article prize in 2014, a prize for the best doctoral thesis in law in 2005 and a dissertation prize the Turku Finnish University Society in 2006.

ETMU wants through the award send a message to the community of legal scholars in Finland and recognize the important work that legal scholars do in the fields of ethnic relations and international migration. Until now, the award has only once been given to a legal scholar, Tarja Halonen, who was awarded less as a scholar but more as a political public figure. By giving the award to a legal scholar, ETMU wants to strengthen the profile and role of the research in the field of law within ETMU and in Finnish Academia at large. The work that Elina Pirjatanniemi is doing supports human rights that belong to all of us, regardless of national origin or immigration status.

Elina Pirjatanniemi’s example shows us that as academics, we can and should speak out about injustice when we encounter it. It shows us that in times of polarization and heated debate over questions so politicized as questions of asylum seeking and migration, voices that remind us of fundamental human rights principles can and should be heard.