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All teenagers from Greek refugee camps receive residence permits in Kotka

Capacity at reception centres for minors is being cut, as the number of arrivals has hit a record low since the pandemic began.

Yleiskuva Kotkan maahanmuuttopalveluiden hybridiyksiköstä
The hybrid unit, established in Kotka a couple of years ago, is intended for minor asylum seekers and those who have received residence permits. Image: Atte Pöytäkangas / Yle

Last July, nearly 50 unaccompanied children were relocated from Greece to Finland as part of a programme coordinated by the European Commission.

Fifteen of them were placed in the Kotka Hybrid Unit for Minors on Finland's southeast coast.

The hybrid unit, established in Kotka a couple of years ago, is intended for minor asylum seekers and those who have received residence permits.

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Portaikko ja käytävää Kotkan turvapaikanhakijoiden hybridiyksikössä.
The Kotka Hybrid Unit is currently home to 26 minors. Image: Atte Pöytäkangas / Yle

According to Tiina Ratia, the director of the unit, the first young people received residence permits late last year and the last ones in May.

The 24-hour hybrid unit is intended for minor asylum seekers and those who have already obtained residence permits. Children and young people live there until they are 18 years old, or until their parents move permanently to Finland.

Minor asylum seekers who come to Finland without a guardian typically receive residence permits faster than adults. According to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), the average processing time for the first application of children arriving alone last year was 180 days. First applications from adults, on the other hand, were processed in an average of 265 days.

"It is in the best interests of the child that processing times are not long. Unaccompanied minors very rarely receive negative decisions," Ratia told Yle.

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Tiina Ratia
Tiina Ratia, director of the Kotka Hybrid Unit for Minors Image: Atte Pöytäkangas / Yle

The law provides for a maximum processing period of six months for new applications, although this may be extended to as much as 21 months under certain conditions specified in the law.

The Kotka hybrid unit is to be downsized soon. It currently has 26 residents, with a 36-bed capacity. The capacity will be reduced by eight beds in early October.

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Kotkan turvapaikanhakijoiden hybridiyksikön nuorisohuone
The young residents of the hybrid unit are on summer vacation until schools to re-open in August. Image: Atte Pöytäkangas / Yle

Migri notes the number of new asylum seekers hit a record low last year, mostly due to the pandemic.

"It's very likely that the number of applicants will start to rise when restrictions are lifted," said Mikko Välisalo, a senior adviser at Migri's Reception Unit.

Residential capacity will also be reduced at other reception centres as of the beginning of October. The Hämeenkyrö hybrid unit near Tampere will be downsized by 10 beds while five places will be removed from the Vörå (Vöyri) unit near Vaasa on the west coast.

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