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Ministry raps reception centre cost overruns

Last autumn the Finnish Immigration Service set up more than 180 within a few months. An Interior Ministry report finds that haste led to significant administrative problems.

Image: Yle

Finland's Ministry of the Interior said on Monday that an internal review had uncovered "shortcomings" in contracts and financial practices related to reception centres set up last autumn in the country.

Its internal review notes that the number of asylum seekers increased tenfold last year and that reception centres had to be established on an extremely accelerated timetable.

"The Immigration Service survived the situation and managed to keep immigration under control and to expand its reception operations to the necessary extent on a rapid schedule," the report says.

However due to haste, the service was not always able to stick to good governance and the best administrative practices, and costs per asylum seeker began to rise.

The ministry called on the Immigration Service to develop standard contracts for establishing reception centres in future, and to improve monitoring systems.

Amid a sudden surge of asylum seekers that began about a year ago, the Immigration Service founded 182 reception centres within a few months. The number of new arrivals began to taper off towards the end of the year, and this year some centres have been closed or consolidated.

Costs to be cut in food and security services

The Immigration Service responded with a statement saying that its main objective "was to provide a roof over the heads of all asylum seekers," acknowledging that it was aware "that in such situations, reception centres could not be established in as a cost-effective way as before".

The statement goes on to note that it usually "takes months to establish a reception centre but last year we had to establish centres even in a few days. During the busiest days, hundreds of asylum seekers arrived in Finland per day. Nevertheless, nobody had to spend the night under the open sky."

The Immigration Service pledges to overhaul its procedures "in accordance with the findings and recommendations in the internal review".

Among other changes, the agency says it will maintain a maximum occupancy rate of 90 percent at centres and focus more on costs. For instance, it says, "the number of food service centres and the oversized security services will be decreased".