The number of migrant children on the Greek islands is on the rise. Finland is expected to select 175 of the most vulnerable in order to try and alleviate the humanitarian situation | Photo: picture-alliance/AA/A. Mehmet
The number of migrant children on the Greek islands is on the rise. Finland is expected to select 175 of the most vulnerable in order to try and alleviate the humanitarian situation | Photo: picture-alliance/AA/A. Mehmet

The Finnish government has announced it will take in 175 vulnerable asylum seekers from various camps in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Malta. It hopes its gesture will help to "alleviate the humanitarian situation," in the Mediterranean region.

The Finnish government hasn't yet laid out a timetable for the arrivals; however it told the news agency AP that by taking in the most vulnerable asylum seekers, children and single-parent families for instance, and "those eligible for international protection from countries such as Syria and Afganistan," it would "help alleviate the humanitarian situation" experienced by refugees in European states in the Mediterranean region.

So far, Finland has taken in relatively few migrants and asylum seekers, compared to other European countries like Greece, Italy and Spain. The latest figures released by Finland’s bureau of national statistics showed that net migration was "clearly lower in 2018 than in the year before."

Fewer migrants arriving

According to Statistics Finland (OSF), "the migration gain for Finland in 2018 …was 19% lower than in 2017." The reason for this, is that immigration decreased and emigration increased. In 2018, 31,106 persons moved to Finland from abroad. Not all of these people are asylum seekers though. In fact, the number of those migrating from non-EU countries was 12,733 in 2018. The largest percentage of those new arrivals came from Iraq, 1,797, followed by Russia 1,240.

The Finnish President Sauli Niinisto applauded the government’s decision to welcome the 175 vulnerable asylum seekers when talking to the Finnish public broadcaster YLE. In the past, President Niinisto has used his new year’s speech on the same broadcaster to urge the country to "find better ways of dealing with migration."

'Finland needs migration'

In 2019's new year speech, for instance, he called migration "the most divisive force in Europe at the moment," according to YLE English. In the same speech, he pointed out that Finland "needs migration" and "qualified experts and those learning to become ones." He reiterated the country's commitment to "international agreements governing asylum seekers."

The Finnish Immigration Service Migri told YLE on Sunday, February 23 that it was "well prepared" and "should have no problem relocating [the] vulnerable asylum seekers to Finland." The Interior Ministry told YLE that the relocation would be financed by the EU migration fund AMIF (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund).

The director general of Migri, Jaana Vuorio told YLE that Finland would assign chaperones for the unaccompanied children both for the journey to Finland and once they are in the country. Vuorio acknowledges that the children will need extra psychological support because they are so vulnerable. Vuorio promised that the assistance would be personalized for each asylum seeker.

Personalized assistance

Vuorio also told YLE that because reception center capacity had been "reduced in recent years," there might "not be necessarily enough space to accommodate [the asylum seekers] right away." Vuorio added though that if the asylum seekers arrived in a couple of months then the right accommodation would be found. An Interior Ministry official Lauri Yli-Vakkuri, who is the International Affairs Director for the ministry, told YLE that it could "take months" to confirm the final list of the chosen 175.

Yli-Vakkuri said first a formal decision to accept the 175 would have to made by the government. That is expected to take place next week, wrote YLE. Then officials from the country's security and intelligence agency would help with pre-selecting candidates for relocation.  It is expected, Yli-Vakkuri told YLE that "Finland will initially contact local authorities – at least in Greece — to propose individuals for selection."

Once a pre-selection has been made, Finland is expected to send a delegation to assess each individual's needs. Although all the individuals are expected to be candidates for asylum, they will not start the process of application until they arrive in Finland.

 

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