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Nearly 3,000 asylum seekers have voluntarily left Finland

The border guard says that nearly 3,000 asylum seekers have cancelled their applications for refugee status and left the country. The figure includes only those who flew out of the Schengen area from Helsinki airport, so the true number of departures could be even higher.

Turvapaikanhakijoita saapumassa Tornion järjestelykeskukseen.
Asylum seekers arriving in Tornio in September 2015. Image: Panu Pohjola / Lehtikuva

Since last October some 2,951 people have left Finland and cancelled their applications for asylum. Of those, 490 left in January. That’s according to the border guard, but even those figures are incomplete.

"In practice all those who departed from Finland are Iraqis who’ve have travelled from Helsinki to Istanbul," said Ismo Siikaluoma of the border guard.

In 2015 32,476 people applied for asylum in Finland, and another 818 people did so in January.

Altogether some 3,800 people cancelled their asylum applications since the start of last year, according to the Immigration service. The border guard’s statistics only cover the period since last October.

Support for returnees

It is possible others left via internal Schengen borders, making the total number even higher. The vast majority left of their own volition and using their own funds, according to the Immigration service. Only 363 people were granted official support to return to their country of origin between last September and December.

The support is offered on a discretionary basis, and if granted it covers the cost of travel documents, transfers to and from airports in Finland and the destination country, and flight tickets. It’s arranged in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration, which says that disappointment with Finland is often the motivation for returnees.

Discretionary basis

"Returnees have said for example that family members are experiencing difficulties, that a mother or child is sick," said Tobias van Treeck of the IOM. "General expectations of Finland and the asylum process have been different to what they expected before they left."

Some people can receive support for their reintegration once they return to their home countries. That support can range from 50 euros to 1,500 euros, and is granted on a discretionary basis. In general the longer an asylum seeker has been in Finland, the bigger the sum they can receive.

The Immigration Service currently has around 27,000 asylum applications in the system, and aims to process them by the summer.

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