Finnish Immigration in 2015 – “Everyone is expected to have an opinion”

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One of the children playing in the centre. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

One of the children playing in the centre. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Last year was an exceptional year for immigration, detailed in The European Migration Network’s (EMN) annual report on migration and asylum policy. The number of asylum seekers grew tenfold from the previous year and the number of asylum applications filed in Finland in 2015 (30,975) was higher than the total figure for the previous ten years combined. This was certainly reflected in the public dialogue surrounding immigration, of which humanitarian migration took centre stage

The majority of the humanitarian influx occurred in the autumn. “The number of asylum seekers who entered Finland in 2015 was a national record. Newly established reception centres meant that the impacts of the influx were reflected throughout the country, including towns that had barely any foreign residents previously,” says Rafael Bärlund, Senior Adviser at EMN, who was responsible for the statistical review. “Also noteworthy is a large number of unaccompanied minors, which, at 3,024, was 15 times higher than the previous year.”

Suvi Tiainen, the Senior Adviser who produced the EMN policy report, had more to say on the matter. “As the majority of these unaccompanied minors are likely to remain in Finland, it is important for municipalities to bear their responsibility and offer municipal placement to these young people.”

The rapid growth in the number of asylum seekers was particularly reflected in the reception system for asylum seekers: over a hundred reception centres were established in Finland over a short period of time in Autumn, 2014. There was an increase in the number of employees in the Finnish Immigration Service, and new regional offices were established. As the majority of the asylum applications received last year were not decided on during the year, the influx is yet to be reflected in the total number of asylum decisions made.

The EMN statistical review, in conjunction with the report on migration and asylum policy in Finland in 2015, shed light on the impacts of the asylum situation and relevant sectors. It also provides an overall view of Finnish migration policy and immigration in Finland, which comprises more than just asylum policy: the number of residence permits issued in 2015 was largely unchanged from the previous year. “Immigration to Finland on the basis of employment, family reasons or studying, showed no significant change from the previous years,” Bärlund explains. EMN Senior Adviser Suvi Tiainen also highlighted the polarising climate surrounding public dialogue on immigration. “Everyone is expected to have an opinion on immigration, and views have become more extreme.”

EMN produces an annual report on migration and asylum policy as well as a statistical review. The annual statistical review is compiled from statistics provided by the Finnish Immigration Service, Police and Finnish Border Guard as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and is the only pair of publications in Finland that presents compiled information (obtained from the Finnish Immigration Service, Police and Finnish Border Guard, as well as the International Organization for Migration) on development trends in migration-related matters.

For more information and reports, please visit EMN. Studies and statistics can also be found in English.