Finland's three-party government has set aside 5.3 million euros in its budget proposal for 2018 to pay for social services used by people without official leave to be in the country. The allocation is in response to municipal calls for money to meet the needs of of rejected asylum seekers that remain in the country. Very few individuals in this situation have sought out state aid until now, but there is a concern that this number will grow.
Expenses that the state will cover under the funding include temporary housing, food and essential medicines.
Earlier, the Finnish government did not compensate local governments for their provision of emergency assistance to undocumented individuals, as these costs were considered a part of their standard obligation to provide basic social services. The state already pays a quarter of all basic social service expenses in Finland.
Starting next year - if the government's proposed budget becomes a reality - the state will cover the expenses entirely, as municipalities and joint municipal authorities will be able to apply for compensation from the state's benefit administrator Kela.
According to the new proposal, the government will pay back municipal expenses that arise from emergency health care for people without documentation as well.
Enough money to help up to 1,500 individuals
No one knows for sure how many undocumented people are currently residing in Finland. The Central Bureau of Investigation calculated at the end of July that 5,300 asylum seekers had disappeared from reception centres across the country. The police would not speculate on how many of these had left the country.
Mikko Nygård, a consultant to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, says the figure of 5.3 million was arrived at by calculating the amount needed to provide shelter, food and essential medicines to between 700 and 1,500 people.
The need for emergency housing is only deemed necessary in the winter, but nourishment and medicines are needed year round. The ministry calculates that the expense to the state of meeting one person's basic needs will be about 47 euros a day.
"The estimate errs on the side of caution. It may turn out to be oversized, especially in this first year. I guess that not too many will take advantage of it at first," he says.
Minimal assistance sought to date
At the request of a ministerial committee on immigration, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health asked regional administrators for an analysis of "illegal residents of the country's use of public social and health services".
The report found that only a few individuals without a residence permit have applied for municipal services since the beginning of the year. Ministerial Counsellor for Social Affairs Viveca Arrhenius says there is nevertheless every reason to believe that the number of people seeking basic services will grow.
"There have been so many negative [asylum] decisions since the start of the year. It is our view that the number of cases should have increased in the spring and summer," she says.
Arrhenius says that so far Finland's municipalities have handled emergency social services for people who have been denied asylum in the country without a problem.
Edit 11.8 17:55 The headline on this story originally read 'Budget proposal earmarks over 5 million euros to meet basic needs of undocumented residents'