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25 asylum seekers arrive in Finland from Malta refugee camp

The group consists of single-parent families from the East Africa region.

Joutsenon vastaanottokeskus.
The main building of Joutseno reception centre in Lappeenranta. Image: Kalle Purhonen / Yle

A total of 25 asylum seekers from a refugee camp in Malta have arrived at the Joutseno reception centre in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland.

The group is made up entirely of members of single-parent families from the East African region, and their relocation is part of the Finnish government’s commitment to take in a total of 175 asylum seekers from Mediterranean refugee camps.

Aside from Finland, a number of other EU countries have also agreed to receive asylum seekers from the camps, which are located in Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Italy.

Reception centre occupancy at historically low level

The Joutseno reception centre is currently running at half its capacity, with only 130 residents occupying the 250 available spaces.

Reception centers across Finland are reporting similar figures, as the coronavirus crisis continues to affect the number of people seeking asylum in Finland.

The centre’s Acting Director Antti Jäppinen told Yle that the figures are at an historically low level.

"By the beginning of November, less than 1,100 new asylum applications had been registered in Finland this year, which is the lowest number since the 1990s," Jäppinen said, adding that the trend is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Story continues after photo.

rum med säng och bord
A standard room at the Joutseno reception centre, which is now operating at half its capacity. Image: Monica Slotte / Yle
"Although it is difficult to predict the future, there is currently no prospect of a significant increase in the number of applicants in Finland or the EU," he said.

The low level of occupancy has at least helped the centre to better tackle the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as few people and more space mean it is easier for residents to observe health guidelines.

"In the accommodation section and in the canteen, safe distances can be better maintained and the number of people exposed in connection with possible infections will be much smaller," Jäppinen said.

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