Alienated – Introduction

Behind the blog are three 2nd year Social Services students. We are using this platform to blog and raise awareness about seeking an asylum in Finland and to discuss the Finnish asylum policy. Asylum is a legal process that allows anyone who feels their life is in danger in his or her home country to seek refuge in a safer country. Here, we shall be blogging about the rights and services available to asylum seekers as well as various phenomena around the topic, such as integration and employment of asylum seekers. Our main subject on this blog will focus on the following themes regarding asylum: 

  • Exerting influence 
  • Promoting inclusion 
  • Reinforcing inclusion 

We approach issues from different perspectives, such as how the law is applied when it comes to asylum. Also, in terms of current issues, we shall highlight how for example the current pandemic situation affects asylum seekers’ everyday functioning. We will also include investigative journalism and opinion writing and strive to provide interesting reading. We hope you will learn more with us regarding this subject. 

Deric, toffeemilk & MMK

What if the answer is no?

As our blogging journey has come to an end, I wanted to dedicate my third blog post to the last steps of asylum process. If an asylum seeker gets a positive decision, that means that he/she is granted with a residence permit based on international protection, subsidiary protection or compassionate grounds. But what happens if the answer is no? Our blogger Deric already covered the appeal process in his last post, but in mine I wanted to bring up different scenarios of what might happen after negative decision and shed light on the work that our working life partner Mosaiikki does, since many of their clients have faced this situation.

Lue lisää What if the answer is no?

On the employment of asylum seekers

Let’s get straight to the point: I found an article on the Helsinki website describing the employment of people with a foreign background, and the site offers a very comprehensive package about the subject. However, the whole thing talks about immigrants in their entirety, so I’ll put snippets here of what was said about asylum seekers: 

  • Seeking employment is often most difficult when coming from countries with large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Those who have lived in Finland for a longer period of time are better employed. The positive development is also reflected in increased earned income and an increase in owner-occupied housing. 
  • The unemployment rate of Somalis, Iraqis and Afghans is clearly higher and the employment rate is lower than that of the native population. These countries have often come to Finland as refugees, through the asylum application process or as a result of family reunification. These background groups also highlight the low employment rate of women, especially in the first years of living in Finland. Many of Helsinki’s immigrants, especially those with a Turkish background, work as entrepreneurs.  
Lue lisää On the employment of asylum seekers

Unaccompanied minors seeking for asylum

Last Friday, 20th of November, the Finnish flag was raised to poles for the first time in honor of the international World Children’s Day. One of the day’s mission is to raise awareness about children’s rights and to bring up to discussion children’s wellbeing, which is continuously under threat by wars and crises around the world. I got inspired by this day and wanted to dedicate this blog post to examine the status of children and minors, who have come to seek asylum in Finland alone without their guardians.

Lue lisää Unaccompanied minors seeking for asylum

How COVID-19 has affected the clientele

The number of asylum seekers has clearly decreased during the current pandemic. In April, Migri stated that no asylum applications had been submitted at Finland’s borders since the restrictions on border traffic were implemented on 19 March 2020. Asylum interviews – where the applicant’s identity is determined, the reason for seeking asylum and the itinerary on how they came to Finland is discussed -, only the busiest were carried out.

The interviews happen on premises where workers and customers can be adequately protected against possible infections. The interview rooms used have, among other things, protective plexuses to protect against droplet infections. The interviews can be done remotely.

Lue lisää How COVID-19 has affected the clientele

A sense of justice and mental health do not go hand in hand

“No health care system that excludes entire groups of people from mental health services or care serves its purpose.”

Kaisa Korhonen

I recommend listening to God Help the Outcasts by Heidi Mollenhauer.

Mental health refers to a state of being in which a person is aware of their own possibilities and abilities, and if they are able to cope with the normal stressors and challenges of life. In addition, a person is able to work and participate in the activities of their own community. Mental health disorder is a complex phenomenon that mainly affects the areas of human emotional life, thought and behavior. Mental disorders occur in different ways for different people and have in common that they are often every day, weighty, and threaten mental well-being. Mental disorders are often caused by untreated and difficult emotional states that, when prolonged, predispose a person to different types of disorders.

An individual’s mental health depends on individual factors and the world of experience, the social support and interaction received, social structures and resources, and the values determined by culture. Positive mental health refers to the cornerstone on which a person can build his or her life and face the challenges posed by everyday life. Positive mental health is essentially associated with the experience of well-being. An optimistic attitude to life and the experience of being able to influence one’s own affairs is associated with positive mental health. Mental health is not a permanent state of being, but as the life situation changes, the individual has to redefine his or her own mental health. For example, changes in the values of the surrounding society, as well as uncertainty in the economic situation, are factors that can pose challenges to maintaining positive mental health.

Now… how is it with asylum seekers?

Lue lisää A sense of justice and mental health do not go hand in hand

Integration into the new world

After the asylum application has been filed, the Finnish Immigration Service is the one that makes the decision whether it will grant the applicant with an asylum or not. The processing times within the Immigration Service have been increasing year by year. In 2016, the average processing time for a person, who was applying an asylum for the first time, was 270 days. In 2017, it was 373 days and currently the estimated processing time, depending when the application was filed, can be up to 20 months. This means that an asylum seeker may have to spend almost two years in a foreign country. Many of the applicants do not have any previous knowledge about Finland and are likely to face a major culture shock after arriving, which emphasizes the importance of integration services aimed for them.

Lue lisää Integration into the new world

Abandoned at The Shores of Europe.

                                              

Aid agencies  have longed warned of dire conditions at Moria, Europe’s largest migrant camp where more than 12,500 people live in around a facility built to house just over 2,750. The camp is housing those fleeing violence and poverty in the middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. It has become a symbol of what critics say is Europe’s failure to humanely handle the migrant situation. (euro news 2020).

The worst happened when a large fire in September 2020 destroyed the overcrowded facility on the Greek island of Lesbos leaving nearly 13,000 people mostly those wishing to seek asylum in different European countries without shelter.

This brought a more serious and difficult situation into a humanitarian disaster. Sanitation problems in the midst of a pandemic like the covid 19 are just a few of the many challenges facing the asylum seekers who feel abandoned by Europe they hoped for a better life when they crossed the sea to reach Greece which is a gate way to Europe. The migrants are equally feeling frustrated and depressed especially as the local population is hostile towards them. It is extremely getting more challenging for families with children as well as unaccompanied minors.

Amnesty international’s migration researcher Adriana Tidona said “reckless EU policies” were to blame for over crowding in Moria. Under the 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey designed to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants, those arriving on Greek island like Lesbos from nearby Turkish coast are held there pending either deportation back to Turkey or the acceptance of their asylum claims. Though the deal dramatically reduced the flow, delays in processing asylum claims and continued arrival of hundreds of asylum seekers led the island camp to quickly exceed their capacity. Successive Greek governments have urged other European countries to share the burden.

European authorities who have often been criticised for not doing enough to ease the burden on southern countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain where majority of the immigrants arrive were offered some help. For example, Germany offered to take in close to 1,500 migrants from the Greek island after the fire disaster while Finland was also well prepared to take in a certain number of asylum seekers from the Mediterranean.

The experience and opinion shared by our working life partner Anna Hyytiäinen working for Sininauhasäätiö at Mosaiikki also inspired me to write this blog. Her organisation provides support to asylum seekers through aspects like offering information about the public and third sector services they have access to, help with access to services, and support in difficult situations. Ensuring that the fundamental rights of asylum seekers are being taken into consideration irrespective of their paperless status in Finland.

She explained during our discussion that, while it is challenging for many European countries, more must follow the example of Germany and Finland who agreed to take in asylum seekers from the Mediterranean. She further explained that asylum seekers themselves hardly plan to seek asylum in Europe living behind love ones, jobs, property and a life they cherished in their respective countries.

However, civil wars, persecution and many other conflicts puts them in a situation where they have no choice but to seek asylum in countries where there is peace. Her organisation does not have the influence or powers to decide reception of asylum seekers in the EU. But then, taking in asylum seekers should not be a political decision but a great humanitarian gesture by all European countries. The rise of populist governments in certain European countries today with harsh policies to asylum only worsens the situation at the shores of Europe.

References:

https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/migri_finland_well_prepared_to_accept_asylum_seekers_from_mediterranean/11223606

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/10/new-fire-at-overcrowded-migrant-camp-on-greek-island-of-lesbos

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/15/germany-to-take-in-1-500-migrants-from-greek-islands-after-lesbos-fire

https://www.sininauhasaatio.fi/toimintamme/maahanmuuttajatyo/tuki-paperittomille/