The number of people granted asylum in Finland has dropped lower than before the 2015 application spike, the Finnish Immigration Service Migri announced Wednesday.
A total of 4,548 people applied for asylum in 2018, with about half of those (2,409 submissions) being first-time applications. Most of the applications came from Iraqi nationals, followed by Russians and Somalis.
In 2015 some 32,000 asylum seekers applied for residency, also mostly from Iraq. Prior to the spike the yearly number of applications held steady at 3,000-4,000 submissions. Last year's figure dropped from more than 5,000 annual applications in 2016 and 2017.
Unrest in Iraq and Syria based on the expansion of terrorist group Isis prompted the record-breaking 2015 figures, leading to much-publicised challenges in Finland's asylum policy.
One of the top reasons for granting asylum in recent years has been applicants' conversion from Islam to Christianity. Migri says that Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to live in as a Christian.
A citizens' initiative calling for the immediate deportation of sexual criminals gathered the minimum 50,000 signatures on Monday. The petition, spurred by recent police reports on numerous cases of sexual assault, will be handled by the next Parliament, following elections in April.
Migri reports that the agency carried out slightly fewer deportation decisions last year than in 2017. Almost all of the 1,092 negative asylum decisions were based on unlawful residency. A total of 173 people were rejected due to their criminal background; more than half of them have been deported.