Decline in Applications for Refugee Status

The number of persons applying for refugee status in Finland declined dramatically last year. Immigration officials say just 1,400 foreigners applied for refugee status, down a little over 40 percent from the previous year.

Refugee applicants have also been falling in other EU countries, except for Sweden. The Finnish Immigration Service said applications have declined because the largest applicant group in previous years, the Romany from Eastern Europe, have been excluded with EU enlargement.

Of all the nationalities, only Iraqi applicants have shown a significant increase, nearly 30 percent more than the preceding year. A solid 300 Iraqis applied for refugee status in Finland, still far short of the 18,000 applying for asylum in Sweden.

The number of positive decisions for residence permits has also increased in Finland. nearly 50 percent of applicants - about 828 - have been granted either residence permits or refugee status.

The greatest number of positive decisions has come for applications based on security reasons, which have increased six-fold.