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Schooling for young asylum seekers a constitutional right

In South Karelia, school age asylum seekers have access to basic schooling aimed at preparing them for a more streamlined entrance into the Finnish education system. However, the situation is not as bright in other parts of Finland.

Nuoret turvapaikanhakijat opiskelivat suomen kieltä odottaessaan oleskelulupapäätöstä Parikkalassa vuonna 2010. Image: Yle

In South Karelia, school-age asylum seekers are offered basic, elementary school education before they receive permission to stay in Finland.

"A child can start with basic preparatory instruction for elementary school while their residence permit application is still being processed," says Mari Routti, Head of the General Education Division for the City of Lappeenranta.

At present, around 60 young asylum seekers have access to education at four schools in Lappeenranta.

"The school places are arranged for children quickly and smoothly," says Jari Kähkönen, the director of the Joutseno refugee reception centre. "Compulsory school age varies from 10 to 20 years of age."

However, other parts of Finland do not offer the same option.

Second-Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin expressed concern about this issue just before Christmas. She pointed out that leaving a school age child out of the education system goes against a child's  basic constitutional rights in Finland.

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