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Information about refugees and asylum seekers


Other questions:

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who has been granted asylum, that is, refugee status. Refugee status can be granted on the basis of the Refugee Convention (agreed in Geneva), or a person can be granted a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. Resettlement refugees (quota refugees) are persons who have been granted refugee status by the UN refugee agency UNHCR and permission to enter the country within the refugee quota defined in the national budget. Resettlement refugees often arrive from refugee camps.

Who is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who requests protection or a right to reside in a country other than their nationality. Asylum seekers arrive in the country on their own and only apply for asylum after their arrival owing to a fear of being persecuted, or they apply for secondary protection and a residence permit owing to needs for protection or for humanitarian reasons. In Finland, an asylum application can be submitted at the border on arrival or with the police immediately after the arrival.

An asylum seeker is not in the country illegally irrespective of the manner of entering the country. According to the Refugee Convention and the Finnish criminal law, a person cannot be penalized for illegal entry into the country. Whether a person is given protection is not affected by the route of reaching the country or the legality of personal documents.

What is the difference between asylum seeker status and refugee status?

A refugee has been granted refugee status by the UN refugee agency UNHCR before arriving in the country. A refugee within the quota is granted refugee status in Finland and a temporary residence permit, and they can move to Finland when it is known which municipality will receive them. Sometimes a resettlement refugee (quota refugee) has to wait placement in a Finnish municipality in their source country or at a reception centre.

An asylum seeker submits an asylum application on arrival in Finland either immediately at the border or with the police soon after arrival. An asylum seeker is accommodated at a reception centre for the duration of the application process or, if they so wish, they can find their own accommodation. The police or the Border Guard investigate the identity of the applicant and their route of arrival in Finland; in case of uncertainty, the applicant is taken into custody.

If an asylum seeker has arrived in Finland via some other EU country, they are usually returned to that country on the basis of the Dublin Regulation. Otherwise the Finnish Immigration Service interviews every asylum seeker on an individual basis, and this interview forms the basis of either granting or denying asylum. An asylum seeker may have to wait for the interview for several months due to a high number of applicants.

An application for international protection is handled either in a normal or in an accelerated process. A normal process may take up to three years. There is a special reception procedure and separate accommodation arrangements for asylum seekers who are minors (under 18) and have arrived in Finland alone. When granted asylum, a person is either placed in a municipality or settles in a municipality on their own.

If denied asylum, an asylum seeker is often taken into custody before removal from the country. An applicant has the right to appeal a negative decision to the Helsinki Administrative Court and, further, to apply for permission to appeal the case to the Supreme Administrative Court.

What is the current length of the asylum application process?

Owing to the high number of asylum seekers, the estimated length of the application process is now six months. As possible, asylum seekers are moved to reception centres with shorter wait times to receive an interview.

What are asylum seeker reception services?

Asylum seeker reception services are defined in the Reception Act, that is, the law on the reception of persons seeking international protection and on recognizing and helping victims of human trafficking. These services include comprehensive accommodation, reception and pocket money, social services, health care services, interpretation and translation services, activities and studies, and possibly meals. Asylum seekers can also organize their own accommodation, in which case they must report their address in writing and present a lease agreement or other document on private accommodation to the reception centre where they are registered.

Who is responsible for providing reception services?

The Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for the operational steering, planning and supervision of the reception and support system. The Immigration Service can, however, make an agreement on the establishment of a new reception or organizing centre and its location with a municipality, municipal alliance, organization or foundation. Reception services for an asylum seeker are organized by the reception centre where they are registered as a customer. The Government reimburses municipalities for all costs caused by providing reception services in accordance with the Reception Act.

What are the respective roles of the Finnish Immigration Service and the City of Helsinki in receiving asylum seekers?

The operational steering, planning and supervision of the reception and support system are the responsibility of the Finnish Immigration Service. The City of Helsinki is responsible for providing reception services for the customers registered in the reception centres maintained by the City.

The City of Helsinki has made an agreement with the Immigration Service for the organization of reception and custody services for persons applying for international protection. The agreement is for accommodating no more than 446 persons in reception operations and no more than 70 persons in custody.  The Helsinki reception operations have been expanded temporarily, because the number of asylum seekers has exceeded previous estimates many-fold. The total amount for places is 1300.

How are tasks distributed within the Helsinki City organization in receiving asylum seekers?

The City of Helsinki Executive Office coordinates the matters related to asylum seekers and handles communication. The Department of Social Services and Health Care manages the operations of reception centres, and the Real Estate Department ensures that the facilities are usable. The Rescue Department monitors the situation at reception centres as concerns fire safety and rescue readiness and updates the overall view of these circumstances. Other departments support the activities.

How many asylum seekers are there in Finland?

Finland received approximately 32,476 asylum seekers 2015. The total number of asylum seekers received by Finland in 2014 was 3,651. This year from the beginning of the year to mid April 2,400 asylum seekers have arrived to Finland.

How many asylum seekers are there in Helsinki?

The City of Helsinki was responsible for 1,750 asylum seekers in mid April 2016. Close to 500 of them were accommodated at City-maintained reception centres. About 1,250 were accommodated privately. Some asylum seekers are placed in hostels, in parish facilities and in emergency shelters.

What are the reception centres maintained by the City of Helsinki?

The City of Helsinki maintains three reception centres: the Kaarlenkatu reception centre, the Punavuori reception centre, and the Metsälä reception and custody centre including a unit at the old Koskela hospital and the Kaukokiito motel in Metsälä. The City also organizes emergency accommodation.

The combined capacity of these reception centres is about 1,300 beds. This is complemented by accommodation in hotels and parish facilities as well as by private accommodation.

Do other municipalities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and in nearby areas provide reception services?

At first, reception operations in southern Finland were handled almost entirely by the City of Helsinki, but reception centres were opened in Espoo and Vantaa in the autumn, mostly by private operators. The City of Espoo is responsible for the reception of asylum seekers who are minors and travel alone. Reception centres have also been opened elsewhere in the Uusimaa Province.

How has the Finnish government prepared for the large number of asylum seekers entering the country?

The Finnish Immigration Service carries out negotiations about opening new reception centres all around Finland. Currently reception centres are full throughout the country.

Where do asylum seekers go after they have been granted international protection?

Persons granted asylum are placed in municipalities, or they settle in municipalities by themselves.


How can private individuals help?

Because of the large workload of reception centres and their human resources stretched to the limit, donations and offers of help and voluntary activities should be addressed to the Finnish Red Cross (SPR), which coordinates these activities. SPR publishes information on alternatives and methods to contribute on its website.

Can I accommodate an asylum seeker at my home?

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, there is no legal impediment to accommodating an asylum seeker at a private home. However, asylum seekers must be registered in some reception centre, where they are entitled to the health care, social and other services organized by the centre, as asylum seekers are not entitled to public services provided by municipalities.

Accommodating an asylum seeker in a private home is a voluntary activity. Neither the Immigration Service nor reception centres can reimburse private individuals for any costs caused by asylum seeker accommodation.

Why are young men over-represented among asylum seekers?

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, about half of all refugees and asylum seekers in the world are women. However, the Western countries and Finland receive more men than women. Travel is often less safe and more difficult for women and children, so men travel more than women. Moreover, men and boys are often in greater danger to be killed or to be recruited to armed groups.

Can an asylum seeker work during the asylum application process?

If no problems have appeared in ascertaining the identity of an asylum seeker, the asylum seeker can work in three months after submitting the asylum application.

14.02.2018 10:32