Red Cross: E-applications won't solve family reunification difficulties

A Finnish Red Cross representative says that announced plans by the Ministry of Interior to introduce electronic applications for family reunification will not expedite or ease the process. Even if applicants can first apply online, they will still be expected to travel long distances - sometimes to other countries - to identify themselves in person at Finnish embassies.

Ihmisten varjoja.
File photo. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Currently there are major hurdles that applicants must overcome to even start the family reunification application process.

If someone in Finland applies for family reunification for a relative in Syria, for example, the person in Syria has to travel to the Finnish embassy in Turkey in order to get the process started.

On Monday however, Interior Minister Paula Risikko told Yle's A-Studio programme that the Immigration System would soon start using an online application form in order to get applicants into the system more easily. Risikko said that the system could be operational in the next few weeks.

Once the application process has started the applicant will still have to travel to the nearest embassy in order to identify themselves to Finnish officials.

Salmio: Not adequate solution

Timo Salmio, who works at the family reunification division of the Finnish Red Cross, said that a web-based system is not a solution to the underlying difficulties.

"Plans to start the [family reunification] process with online applications will probably not help as much as hoped," Salmio said.

He said that even after an electronic system is in place, applicants from Syria will still be required to get a visa and travel to Turkey in order to identify themselves to Finnish officials.

"It would be best if refugees would be able to apply at the closest local [Finnish] consulate, instead of having to make the long journey to Turkey," Salmio said.

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