Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP) and Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) have requested an explanation from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) about reported shortcomings in how the agency processes work and residence permits for foreign nationals.
The request was prompted by a Helsingin Sanomat investigative report, published over the weekend, which detailed how Migri rejected a residence application submitted by Mongolian nurse Anudari Boldbaater, who had been living and working in Finland.
The agency also asked police to investigate her for fraud, with the prosecutor eventually deciding that there was no case to answer.
"I have been in contact with Minister Mikkonen and together we want an explanation of what happened. We need to get to the bottom of these cases so that we know where in the process there is room for improvement," Haatainen said.
The HS article sparked heated debate on Finnish social media, with many users calling for the agency to be reformed.
"It is Migri's job to check that there is no illegality. It is important to eradicate human trafficking or exploitation. But once these have been cleared, the process must be quick and smooth," Haatainen added.
Saarikko: Migri equation "does not work"
The goal of attracting more skilled workers to Finland from abroad has been a stated aim of the current government, but Migri has often faced criticism over long queues and lengthy processing times.
Migri's dual role has also come under the spotlight, as the agency is responsible for achieving two — sometimes conflicting — objectives: fighting illegal immigration and human trafficking on one hand, but also ensuring the smooth processing of residence and work permits on the other.
According to Finance Minister Annika Saarikko (Cen), the equation "simply does not work."
"An authority that investigates barriers to entry, and whose task is also to try to limit them, cannot also be an authority that thinks about how to make Finland an attractive place to work, how to integrate people, and how to get a job quickly and smoothly," Saarikko said.
Saarikko has previously proposed splitting Migri into two separate parts, with responsibility for the two core functions divided and kept separate.
The idea was not widely welcomed however, with Migri's former Director General Jorma Vuorio describing the suggestion of creating a new agency as "absurd".
However, Saarikko noted the cases in the headlines recently underline the need for further reform of Migri as well as the process of work-based immigration.
She added that the calls for changes to how Migri operates, in order to tackle the delays in the issuing of work permits, are coming from both Finnish companies and public bodies.
"We could create a separate authority whose task would be to ensure smooth work permits, and improve Finland's image as an attractive place to build a life," Saarikko said.
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