The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) says that its expenditures dipped significantly last year, partly due to a smaller number of arriving asylum seekers.
Overall costs of the reception system fell from 282 million euros in 2017 to 189 million last year, the agency reported on Monday.
The daily cost of housing each asylum seeker also declined, from 55 euros in 2017 to 48 last year – about the same as it was before the major influx of asylum seekers in 2015. That year more than 32,000 people sought asylum, a far higher number than in any previous year.
The average cost covers all reception centre expenses including staff salaries and residents' allowances.
Last year, 4,548 people applied for asylum in Finland, about 10 percent fewer than in 2017.
About half of the 2018 number were re-applications by individuals whose initial applications were rejected, usually citing new reasons. Overall the number of applicants in the system shrank from just over 13,000 to around 10,700 during the year.
Migri's overall costs after revenues in 2018 totalled almost 215 million euros, a decline of 22 percent from 2017. The main reason, it says, was the corresponding decline in the asylum seeker population.
Revenue from application fees edged up slightly from 19 million to nearly 20 million euros, but still did not cover the actual costs of the decision-making process because minors and students are given discounts, the agency said.
More EU citizens register as residents
In the bigger picture, the number of immigration permit applications rose. Including registrations of EU citizens’ right of residence, there was an increase of 13 percent to around 96,500 people.
"Processing this growing number of applications requires that sufficient resources will be secured for the agency for the coming years, so that customers will not have to wait unduly long for decisions," finance director Kari Kananen said on Monday.
Migri reports an uptick in the number of immigrants seeking residence permits based on work or studies along with a slight decline in the number based on family ties. The number of applications by family members who received international protection fell by more than one third. Citizenship applications, meanwhile, rose briskly by nine percent to around 14,200.
Migri says that it invested heavily in improving customer service and digitising its processes. As a result, it says there are shorter waiting times for appointments, which can now usually be booked within a month.