RIGHT TO ASYLUM IN FINLAND

During the refugee and migration crisis of 2015, over 32 000 asylum seekers arrived in Finland. (Migri, 2019). As conflict continued in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, public opinion on immigration was, and still is, divided. 

Only one quarter of asylum cases handled by the Immigration Department in 2016 were deemed positive (Undocumented, 2017). Those facing a negative decision were faced with deportation or an uncertain future, with extremely limited access to advice, services, accommodation, means of sustinence, and with no lawful right to work.

Appealing a negative decision is a complicated and difficult process, and it is unlikely that a negative decision will be reversed. With so much confusion surrounding the appeal process, and the dire situation of undocumented migrants, a joint initiative was created by the Finnish Red Cross, the Helsinki Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Parishes, and Sininauhaliitto, with the aim of providing advice and assistance (Undocumented, 2017).

The delicate situation faced by paperless migrants, including the threat of detention and deportation, combined with the often vitriolic nature of anti-immigration politics, has forced the initiative to operate in a low-key way, so as to offer assistance without drawing too much attention.  

In November 2017, the Helsinki City Council voted in favour of asking public health providers to offer basic health care to paperless migrants. It was a close vote which could have gone either way, proof that there is no shortage of opinion on both sides of the issue (Helsinki Votes, 2017).

Debate around immigration is not only a question of compassion, it also goes to the heart of national identity, as well as Finland’s moral and international obligations. The rate of asylum seekers may have decreased, but many unresolved issues and areas of political indecision mean that undocumented migrants continue to face a bleak and uncertain future.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs acknowledges the binding nature of international human rights agreements and the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, according to which refugees should not be returned to countries deemed unsafe (UNHCR, No Date). However, forced deportations to Afghanistan have caused a public outcry from concerned Finns and Amnesty International (Amnesty, 2019). Is Afghanistan safe? Not according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, which in 2019 rated Afghanistan the least peaceful country on earth (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2019). How Finland responds to growing concern over its policy of forced deportation will test Finland’s reputation as a humane, responsible actor on the world stage. 

REFERENCE LIST

Amnesty: Amnesty Finland hands over petition to stop Afghan deportations. 2018. Yle, 9 October. Accessed 24 September 2019. 

https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/amnesty_finland_hands_over_petition_to_stop_afghan_deportations/10447178

Helsinki Votes: Helsinki votes to approve health care for undocumneted migrants. 2017. Yle, 30 November. Accessed 24 September 2019. 

https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/helsinki_votes_to_approve_healthcare_for_undocumented_migrants/9955462

Institute for Economics and Peace. 2019. Global Peace Index. Accessed 24 September 2019.

http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/GPI-2019-Press-Release.docx.pdf

Migri. 2019. Immigrations Statistics 2018. Accessed 24 September 2019.

https://migri.fi/en/article/-/asset_publisher/maahanmuuton-vuoden-2018-tilastot-yha-useampi-haki-viime-vuonna-oleskelulupaa-tyon-perusteella

Support Centre: Support Centre for the Undocumented. 2017. Yle, 5 October. Accessed 24 September 2019. 

https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/thursdays_papers_support_centre_for_the_undocumented_teenage_violence_first_snow/9866840

Undocumented: Undocumented migrants are hopeless and desperate. 2017. Yle, 11 October. Accessed 24 September 2019. https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/undocumented_migrants_are_hopeless_and_desperate_-_they_beg_us_to_help/9877022

UNHCR: The 1951 Refugee Convention. No Date. Accessed 24 September 2019. 

https://www.unhcr.org/1951-refugee-convention.html

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