The Finnish Immigration Service Migri said that it should have no problem relocating vulnerable asylum seekers to Finland from refugee camps in the Mediterranean area.
On Saturday, the Interior Ministry confirmed that Finland had agreed to accept 175 asylum seekers from the Mediterranean area. It said that its goal is to relocate people in especially vulnerable positions, such as unaccompanied children and single parents with kids. The relocation effort will be financed by the EU migration fund AMIF.
Officials in Finland have acknowledged that settling a group of vulnerable people might create challenges for the new host country. Migri director general Jaana Vuorio said that small children for example, may need to be assigned a chaperone for the trip to Finland.
Unaccompanied children will also need to have a guardian appointed in Finland and will have to be accommodated in asylum seeker reception units designed for minors. Such facilities will in turn need to have a sufficient number of counsellors to ensure the children’s wellbeing.
The newcomers, chosen especially because of their vulnerable positions, will also need more psychological support as well as assistance from more social workers. Vuorio said that facilities for transit, or the initial phase of resettlement, are available in Helsinki, Turku, Oulu and Lappeenranta. She added that authorities will seek to provide the asylum seekers with personalised assistance.
"Services will be customised based on who is coming," she commented.
Reception centre capacity crunch
The Migri chief said that Finland is "well prepared" to respond to the newcomers’ needs. However she acknowledged that there might not necessarily be enough space to accommodate them right away.
"Reception centre capacity has been reduced in recent years," she pointed out.
In the event that large numbers of unaccompanied children are selected, officials will be hard pressed to find accommodation quickly she noted. However she said that if the timetable is a matter of months then housing should not be a problem.
Information about the asylum seekers to be chosen to come to Finland is not expected to be available very soon. Interior Ministry international affairs director Lauri Yli-Vakkuri said that it might take months to confirm the final list.
"The issue of whom we propose is a process of its own. It could take some time because it requires an evaluation in both the sending and receiving countries," he noted.
Pre-selection onsite, asylum process in Finland
Even before the selection process can get underway, the government will have to make a formal decision on accepting the asylum seekers. That is expected to take place next week.
Yli-Vakkuri said that Migri will be cooperating with security and intelligence police agency Supo to help select the candidates for relocation.
While the details have not yet been settled, Yli-Vakkuri said that Finland will initially contact local authorities – at least in Greece – to propose individuals for selection.
Migri’s Vuorio said that the final stage of the selection process could see Finland send a delegation to determine the group’s special needs.
The individuals to be brought to Finland will be people in need of international protection, meaning that the actual process of applying for asylum will not begin until they have arrived in Finland.