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Asylum applications in Finland plunged in 2016

The Finnish Immigration Service reports that around 5,600 people applied for asylum in Finland in 2016, a significantly lower figure than the 32,500 applicants who arrived in 2015. Some 9,000 pending applications are currently being transferred from the auspices of the police department to those of the Immigration Service - and the transition will likely slow down processing times, the agency said.

Image: Matti Myller / Yle

The number of people who arrived to Finland as asylum seekers in 2016 was significantly less than during 2015.

In 2016 roughly 5,600 people applied for asylum in Finland while there were some 32,500 asylum applicants the previous year, according to the Finnish Immigration Service.

Most of the asylum seekers in 2016 - some 1,250 people - were Iraqi nationals. There were also some 757 applicants from Afghanistan and 602 Syrian applicants, according to the agency.

Over the past year the agency says it had rejected about half of 28,216 asylum applications while approving about one quarter of them. Fourteen percent of the applications were written off and eight percent were dismissed before being processed.

Delays expected during transition

At the start of 2017, about 9,000 pending asylum applications were transferred from the offices of the police department to the Immigration Service. Some of those pending applications were initiated six months ago.

In a press release issued on Monday the Immigration Service said that the process of transferring the asylum decision duties would slow down their services.

"The transfer is extensive and our customer service or website is not able to answer all the questions about our new services right at the beginning of the year. Because of the transfer, you may not be able to take care of your matter as fast or easy as you wish at the beginning of 2017," the agency stated, and asked its clients to be patient during the transition.

"We are taking the challenges brought on by the transfer seriously and are solving the problems as fast as we can. We will inform you about the changes and give you instructions on our website, so please regularly check," the agency wrote.