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Immigration agency becomes 'one-stop shop'

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) faces sweeping changes next year as all permit matters for foreigners will be concentrated under one agency.

Maahanmuuttoviraston kyltti.
Migri's HQ is in Helsinki's Sörnäinen neighbourhood. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

From the beginning of 2017 The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) will take over from the police all residence permit and citizenship applications in Finland as well as registration of EU citizens.

Starting in January, all such applications must be submitted through nine regional Migri customer service points.

This will mean a shift of some 55,000 cases annually from the police to Migri.

Asylum applications will however still be handed in to police or Border Guard officials, who will then pass them on to Migri for processing.

As a result of the move, 75 police employees will transfer to Migri, and the agency will also hire more fixed-term workers.

'All asylum seekers entitled to same services'

The two state-operated asylum seekers' reception centres will also be operated directly by Migri as of the first of the year. They are located in Oulu, northern Finland, and Joutseno near the south-eastern border with Russia. The detention unit for foreigners at Joutseno will also come under Migri administration.

Besides these two large state-run reception centres, there are also 77 other centres for adults as well as 58 for families and minor asylum seekers, which are maintained by municipalities, NGOs and companies. Most were hastily set up during a sudden surge in asylum seekers in late 2015.

Migri insists that all asylum seekers entitled to the same services, regardless of which reception centre they are housed in.

Workforce expanding sharply

Migri's staffing level has risen dramatically to more than 800 from 365 at the beginning of last year. By the end of 2015, it had more than 500 employees.

Maahanmuuttoviraston ylijohtaja Jaana Vuorio
Vuorio Image: Yle

The end of this year also marks the end of many fixed-term employees' contracts, but at the same time Migri's payroll will swell with new workers from the police and state reception centres.

Migri is to unveil more details about its new strategy and next year's changes on Thursday.

Director General Jaana Vuorio describes the new Migri as "a kind of ‘super agency’ for all immigration matters".

Visa applications, however, will still be handled by the Foreign Ministry, while the Ministry of Employment and the Economy will remain in charge of integration measures.

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