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16 asylum seekers arrive in Finland from Cyprus refugee camp

The group consists of five single-parent families.

Alaikäisiä turvapaikanhakijoita ilman saattajaa nousevat lentokoneeseen lähteäkseen Kreikasta kohti Portugalia 7. heinäkuuta.
Greece has requested the transfer of a total of 1,600 asylum-seeking children to other EU countries. The children in this photo were on their way from Greece to Portugal in early July. Image: Kostas Tsironis / EPA

A total of 16 asylum seekers have been relocated to Finland from a refugee camp in Cyprus, the Finnish Immigration Service Migri announced via Twitter on Monday afternoon.

The group consists of five single-parent families and are part of the Finnish government’s commitment to take in 175 vulnerable asylum seekers from Mediterranean refugee camps over the coming months.

"There are both girls and boys in the group, including a lot of small children from babies up," Migri project manager Monna Airiainen told Yle, adding that the group flew to Finland on a scheduled flight and have safely arrived at a state-run reception centre in Joutseno.

The asylum seekers were tested for coronavirus before the flight, and all were found to be negative, but will spend the first two weeks in quarantine conditions as an extra precaution.

All of the group are from countries with a high security risk but Migri does not want to elaborate any further on their backgrounds as it could potentially compromise their privacy and security, Airiainen added.

Next group due next week

In February, the Finnish government announced its decision to accept 175 asylum seekers from refugee camps in the Mediterranean region, with 100 coming from Greece, 26 from Malta and 30 from Cyprus.

The first 24 unaccompanied children arrived from Greece in early July.

The next group is due to arrive in Finland from Greece next week, Airiainen said, although the exact date will not be announced in advance for security and privacy reasons.

"There are about 25 of them. They will go to a group home in Espoo under quarantine conditions for two weeks, and from there to other group homes across Finland," Airiainen said.

Later, two more groups are coming from Greece and another from Cyprus. More detailed information is expected on the group of asylum seekers arriving from Malta at a later date.

"It is known that most of them will be single-parent families, but we do not yet have precise information about them or the date of their relocation," Airiainen added.

Travel costs covered by EU

The transfers are based on Greece's request to other EU member states for assistance with the refugee situation in the Mediterranean region, as there are currently estimated to be more than 5,000 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Greece alone.

However, efforts at relocation have been hampered by the coronavirus crisis.

Finland has received 12 million from the EU to cover the costs of the programme, with the European Commission announcing in early July that the intention was to relocate mainly unaccompanied children.

In addition, children with serious health problems would be given priority, as well as their close relatives.

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