Fewer asylum seekers arriving in Finland

Migri said Finland may see the lowest number of asylum applications this year since the start of the decade.

Asylum seekers on the Finnish-Swedish border in 2017. Image: Riikka Rautiainen / Yle

First-time asylum applications numbered 1,750 by mid-September, a fraction of the 30,000 applications Finland received during the 2015 migrant crisis, according to Migri, the Finnish Immigration Service.

Migri’s asylum unit director, Antti Lehtinen, said figures from the past months indicate that Finland may not receive more than 2,200 applications for international protection this year.

“Internal border checks have made it far more difficult to move around Europe, which is apparent in the smaller number of people reaching Finland,” Lehtinen explained.

The number of people seeking refuge in Finland has been decreasing since 2016, with a total of 2,409 people submitting first-time asylum applications last year.

Lehtinen told Yle that it was difficult to evaluate whether any domestic polices had influenced migrants’ decision to seek asylum in the country.

“Finland is not any more attractive than other European states,” he said.

Nationals from Turkey, Russia and Iraq make up the highest proportion of new asylum applications in Finland at the moment.

Finland closes reception centres

Migri currently has a backlog of some 8,900 asylum applications. Lehtinen said processing times had grown due to administrative courts sending appeals back to Migri for reconsideration. Appeals cases currently account for around half of the agency's caseload.

With a downward trend of people entering Finland, Migri has decided to shutter a number of asylum seeker reception centers, cutting a total of 800 beds.