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More reception centres close as migration to Finland dwindles

The Finnish Immigration Service has announced that it will shutter 11 reception centres throughout Finland by August 2017, eliminating about 1,100 accommodation places. The Service will also forego special centres for especially challenging refugee cases.

Vastaanottokeskus Turku.
Image: Jussi Vierimaa /SPR

Finland’s immigration authorities are closing 11 asylum seeker reception centres. Adult and family reception centres in the cities of Hanko, Kouvola, Oulu’s Vallinkorva district and Turku’s village of Laitila will be emptied. In addition, seven centres for underage asylum seekers will be discontinued in the cities of Jyväskylä, Järvenpää, Kristinestad, Savonlinna, Seinäjoki, Sipoo and Äänekoski.

A graphic dated February 6 from the Service shows that Finland had 75 reception units for adults and families and 43 units for minors, with space for about 16,000 inhabitants. In addition, roughly 3,700 asylum seekers live in private accommodation.

The Finnish Immigration Service maintains that the closures are necessary because of the high cost of keeping the facilities in operation. If the amount of applications continues to stay low, the Service says it will close additional locations yet this year. However, if the numbers of migrant arrivals starts to grow again, more accommodation would be made available, the Service says.

Over 22,000 berths were eliminated already in 2016, as the number of migrants arriving in Finland started to fall from its peak in autumn 2015. Redundancy talks for employees of the latest centres to be closed have begun.

Keeping it mixed

Asylum seekers requiring special treatment will also bunk in regular centres in future. The Finnish Immigration Service will start a new operation model in Helsinki, Turku and Oulu, whereby enhanced support for especially challenging cases will be given in the standard centres.

At one point, there was talk of establishing a separate reception centre facility for especially challenging cases. After an assessment, however, the Immigration Service and the Police Board agreed that it is better to address the problem behaviour in the centre in which it initially took place. Putting difficult cases together in one unit could create more problems than it solves, they concluded.

Asylum seeker cases that are considered especially challenging are those in which mental issues or substance abuse are involved, or when individuals engage in aggressive or disturbing behaviour that affects the other centre residents or staff. The Finnish Immigration Service says there are very few cases of disturbing behaviour in Finland’s centres.

Close to 6,000 applications still pending

A January report from the Finnish Immigration Service states that a total of 32,476 people applied for asylum in Finland in 2015 and 5,657 persons in 2016. Of the 2016 asylum decisions, 27 percent were positive, 51 percent were negative, 14 percent expired and 8 percent were dismissed.

Decision numbers can be misleading, however, as many of the applications that have been submitted in the last two years are still waiting for a decision.

About 9,000 pending applications were transferred from the police to the Finnish Immigration Service at the beginning of 2017, when all permit matters for foreign nationals were concentrated at the agency.

The Service reports that a total of about 5,850 applications that were submitted to the police are currently waiting to be processed.

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