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Finland to close most asylum seekers' reception centres by late 2017

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) will decide by the end of September which centres are to be shuttered next year. The agency's new reception director is wary of proposals to place rejected asylum seekers into designated deportation centres, though.

Maahanmuuttoviraston vastaanottoyksikön johtajana aloittava Pekka Nuutinen Maahanmuuttoviraston tiedotustilaisuudessa 1. syyskuuta 2016. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

The Finnish Immigration Service is closing more asylum seekers' reception centres. According to the plan, the capacity of the centres will drop to less than a third from its peak last winter.

This autumn, closures of reception centres will be sped up. By year's end, there will be less than 17,000 bed spaces available, down from more than 30,000 a year earlier. If all goes to plan, by late next year there will be a capacity of less than 10,000 berths – barring any unforeseen new surge of applicants.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) will decide by the end of September which centres are to be shuttered next year.

Costs, security and location

Pekka Nuutinen, the newly-appointed Director of Migri's Reception Unit, says that officials will be taking a close look at costs and efficiency during the decision-making process.

"Certainly finances will continue to be a key factor and may even be further emphasised," he told Yle. "But there are also functionality, security and regional location. Many different kinds of issues; it's quite a mosaic that we have to consider in this situation as the reception network is adapted."

The Interior Ministry expects about 10,000 asylum seekers to arrive this year, and about the same number next year. If that's correct, it'll be less than one third as many as showed up unexpectedly last year. At the same time, Migri is rushing to process that backlog of applications, aiming to complete last year's by the end of 2016.

Deportation centres "risky"

Some 14,000 people are waiting to hear whether they'll be allowed to stay, but the rate of approvals is declining. Most of those rejected leave voluntarily but some have to be deported with police escorts.

Nuutinen is sceptical about suggestions that rejected asylum seekers should be gathered together in deportation centres.

"If we take just this kind of people who are at this stage of the process and concentrate them together in the same place, then it might produce...major risk concentrations in functional terms," he warns.

Nuutinen, the former director of the Metsälä reception centre in Helsinki, was named last week as the new Director of the Reception Unit. He takes over on October 1 from Jorma Kuuluvainen, who is retiring.