Faced with a queue of some 22,000 registered asylum seekers, Finnish authorities are looking for ways to cut down on the time required to process applications. The current system in which initial assessments and subsequent interviews are conducted by different officials means that applicants at the end of the queue end up waiting months between the two steps.
Starting from the beginning of November one and the same official will be responsible for the initial evaluation and the subsequent interview of all asylum seekers.
"We will avoid a waiting time of several months, because the process is currently divided between police investigations and asylum seeker interviews," said police inspector Mia Poutanen of the National Police Board.
In practice the change means that the Finnish Immigration Service will assume responsibility for both tasks. So far, police have handled the initial assessment in which they attempt to determine the applicant’s identity and travel route.
Iraqi asylum seekers under close scrutiny
Interviews with new arrivals are a critical part of the asylum application process. The Finnish Immigration Service has recently introduced stricter guidelines for granting asylum based on applicants’ countries of origin.
Immigration officials are closely scrutinising applications from Iraqis in particular, and will be assessing each application on a case by case basis to determine whether the stated grounds for the asylum application warrant a favourable decision.
The majority of the 20,000-odd asylum seekers who’ve entered Finland this year have come from Iraq. The processing queue stretched to tens of thousands of applications as the immigration authority froze all decisions while it pondered the changes to its guidelines for evaluating asylum applications.