Finland doubles assistance to encourage voluntary repatriation

Finland has doubled its financial aid for asylum seekers voluntarily leaving the country from 2,500 to 5,000 euros as fewer people choose to leave.

Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

As of January, asylum seekers leaving Finland can receive up to 5,000 euros, either in cash or as a subsidy for goods and services. Eligible candidates must hail from countries with the highest proportion of asylum seekers in Finland, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

"Cheapest option"

"We want to encourage them to go home. There are thousands of people in the country with rejected asylum applications. They don’t have a residence permit and supporting them is becoming expensive," said Tarja Rantala, who manages the Migration Service's (Migri) voluntary return project.

Rantala also told Yle that asylum seekers whose applications were turned down can draw out the process by reapplying under other circumstances.

"One night in a reception centre costs 50 euros. That’s 5,000 euros in a hundred days," she explained.

From 2016 to 2018 Finland granted 3.8 million euros to 4,181 persons to leave the country. In the same period Finland additionally spent 1.5 million euros on return trip plane tickets - sums which are on par with the other Nordics, according to Rantala.

An offer they could refuse

Despite Finland’s attempt to make leaving lucrative, the number of voluntary returnees has dropped, from 1,422 in 2017 to 646 last year.

Since 2015 some 7,400 people have dropped off officials' radars. These individuals have either opted to stay in the country illegally without a permit, have returned to their home countries on their own, or left for another European country.

Between 2016 and 2018 EU member states returned 5,100 people to Finland whose asylum applications were initially rejected in Finland.

Around 7,890 people are in the country whose asylum applications have been turned down one or more times, according to Migri.