The global refugee crisis came to Finland last year, and very soon the cold hard truth of life in the north started to hit home for many of the new arrivals, with some moving to other EU countries, applying for asylum there—and then ending up due for deportation to Finland under the Dublin III regulation.
Along with the frigid weather, a tightening of policy meant that more and more asylum seekers received negative decisions. Up to 6 November this year some 2,372 people have left asylum reception centres, and a significant proportion of them went to try their luck elsewhere in the EU rather than returning to their home countries.
"Within Europe there is now a kind of hopeless phenomenon, where people move from country to country," said Päivi Nerg, the most senior official at the Interior Ministry. "If they want to be in Europe, then our system currently allows movement from one country to another."
Requests pouring in
Under the Dublin agreement Finland has to deal with asylum seekers who first apply for protection here. That means if they leave and apply again in another EU state, they have to be sent back—and those requests have started to pour in.
Nearly nine hundred deportation requests have arrived so far, with the lion's share coming from Germany. Just 134 deportations have been successfully carried out, however, with some asylum seekers disappearing from view.
If Finland accepts the request, the other EU country has six months in which to implement the deportation. (In exceptional cases there can be extensions of that deadline up to 18 months.
Nerg says that the system is currently not working right, and needs fixing to stop failed asylum seekers switching countries. Germany has requested that 457 people be sent back to Finland, but only 18 have arrived.
"If Germany cannot return an individual, we are powerless in that situation," says Nerg.
That's not the only reason deportations might not happen. According to the German immigration authorities, Finland has refused 76 requests. Finnish authorities say that the refusals are most often because Finland does not think the individual meets the Dublin criteria, or that the request was not made within the mandated time limit.