Anti-immigrant and anti-Islamist groups have mushroomed in Europe, as governments struggle with the unprecedented wave of asylum seekers at a time when rising crime rates, largely blamed on refugees, have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity.
The "Soldiers Of Odin," who take their name from a Norse god, have been patrolling the streets of Finnish cities 24/7 since September 2015, the group's vice president noted. That month Europe was treated to a rude awakening as hundreds of thousands of refugees rushed into Germany and northern Europe.
The Finns, according to a recent survey, have been divided over the street patrols. Weekly magazine Suomen Kuvalehti reported that 48 percent view the "Soldiers Of Odin" as a negative phenomenon. At the same time, 28 percent of respondents support the initiative.
"Locals are mainly supportive, and almost every time we are on the streets someone comes by and thanks us for what we do," the vice president asserted. "Then there is of course that 'other side' who tells false stories about us etc."
Finnish authorities have not welcomed the far-right militia, founded by Mika Ranta in the northern town of Kemi. "Civilian patrols cannot assume the authority of the police," Prime Minister Juha Sipila told public broadcaster YLE on Tuesday.
"I think the practice looks very suspicious. In my view it doesn't belong in a society that has an organized police force and in which police have a certain jurisdiction. I don't see this as a good thing at all," Prosecutor General of Finland Matti Nissinen weighed in on Thursday.
In 2015, Finland received 32,000 refugees, a massive increase from the 3,600 asylum seekers who arrived in 2014.
The group's vice president blames the refugee crisis on open borders. He maintains that tightening border controls and sending refugees who commit crimes back to their country of origin could help to resolve the crisis.