Sunday. 14.04.2024

In Finland, asylum seekers find a level of assistance unparalleled in the rest of the world. The authorities offer accommodation in a safe environment, support, health and legal assistance, translators and even financing for individuals and families while waiting for the final decision.

According to the latest report published by the Regional Representation for Northern Europe of The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in the first semester of 2018 arrived in Finland 1.470 new asylum seekers. The report also highlights that the Finnish state granted protection to 3.430 asylum seekers in 2017.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) stresses at its web page that anyone may get asylum in Finland if has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in his/her home country for reasons of nationality, origin, religion, political opinions or membership in a certain social group.

Another stated requirement is that the asylum applicant cannot rely anymore on the protection of the authorities of her/his home country of permanent residence because of the persecution feared.

The criteria for asylum are defined in the Finnish law and Migri is the institution in charge of evaluating if asylum applicants meet the grounds to be guaranteed protection from the Finnish Government.

Registration as asylum seeker

One very important pre-requisite is that you can only apply for asylum if you are in Finland. Finnish authorities do not take into account any applications for instance sent by letter or by emails to the Finnish Immigration Service. Finnish diplomatic missions abroad (embassies and consulates) do not attend either asylum seekers presentations or requests.

Nor is there any kind of application form that can be completed in advance, before arriving in Finnish territory. The law establishes that the only way to apply for asylum is to communicate it to a police or to a border control official in Finland. So, when you arrive tell immediately to the border control authorities or to the police that you want to apply for asylum in Finland.

After doing that, the border control official or police that you talked to will enter your basic details in the information register and take you biometric identifiers such as photograph, fingerprints and signature. Rest assured that they will also carry out all the checks they consider necessary about you in all the records and registries they consider appropriate.

At the reception centre                                        

After the state official has received your asylum application, you will be sent to a reception centre. There are many of those centres of different types and sizes in different parts of Finland.

You cannot choose at which one you want to stay: the place assigned will depend on factors such as age, gender and other circumstances. According to the information provided by Migri, accommodation is organised in such a way that makes possible for family members to live together if they want to.

Unaccompanied minors are accommodated at a group home (for children under 16 years of age) or at a supported house unit (for young people who are 16 or 17). Group homes and supported housing units are smaller and have more employees per client than reception centres for adults and families. They put an emphasis on care and upbringing.

One important thing to keep in mind is that asylum seekers may not be able to stay in the same reception centre all the time they want. They might be transferred to another centre if the authorities consider it appropriate for their personal situation, for the processing of their applications or for the needs of the reception centre operations.

Usually, the first place you will arrive is called a transit centre, usually located close to the service points of the Finnish Immigration Service that hold asylum interviews. These places are intended, above all, for asylum seekers who have just arrived in the country and started to process their applications. After having an asylum interview with a civil servant, the applicant will be transferred to another reception centre, where s/he must wait for a decision.

For more information on the asylum interview, click HERE

Reception centre employees may book an interpreter to help asylum seekers to handle important official matters that concern them, like visits to the nurse, the social worker or the social counsellors.

Living at a private place

If you wish, you may find another place to stay, for example with your spouse, with relatives or friends. But in any case you have to be registered at a reception centre that will provide you the basic services that you are entitled to, such as health care and a reception allowance.

So, to legalise your stay at a private accommodation you need to give your new address in a written document to the reception centre where you are registered and provide your rental agreement or another document of your accommodation. Then you have to live in the address that you give to the reception centre and stay in contact with it, because it will offer you a lot of important information and instructions.

It is important that you reception centre knows about any changes in your address or contact details to be able to reach you when is necessary. If the reception centre tries to reach you several times but cannot find you, may conclude that you have gone. Then you will lose your benefits and your asylum application will expire.

Legal advice

Asylum seekers in Finland have the right to a legal counsel. In order to get yours, contact the closest legal aid office. You can find yours by clicking HERE

Legal counsels do not normally participate in asylum interviews. They are allowed to be present, but only will be paid if there are “special, weighty reasons why he or she needs to be there”. Migri does not specify which might be those special reasons, but some legal sources consulted by explained that usually the cost of a legal counsel is covered when the applicant is in a position of “special weakness” such as illiteracy, special sickness or if s/he is a child.

Finnish District Courts assign a representative to each asylum seeker who is under 18 years old and has arrived in Finland without a guardian. The representative’s task is to ensure that the child’s best interests are taken into account in different situations. The Finnish Immigration Service will pay the representative’s fee.

In case the legal aid office denies to cover the presence of the legal advisor, the applicant may pay it or go alone to the interview.

Money granted for basic needs

If you are an asylum seeker you may get financial assistance to pay for your basic needs while the authorities process your application. This money is called reception allowance, the reception centre grants it and is paid by the Finnish state.

The reception allowance must be applied for at the reception centre, which will give you all the instructions. All income funds you may have from salary, assets or any other source will reduce the amount of this benefit. You must inform the reception centre about any source of income you have. The funds of your spouse also affect the amount of your reception allowance.

Unaccompanied children also get financial support called spending money, though the sum is smaller. Anyone who or whose family has special needs and needs additional financial support may be granted a supplementary reception allowance.

The reception allowance is uploaded to your prepaid card or given to you in cash.

The right to work

You will have the possibility to start working in order to earn a salary several months after you have communicated the authorities that you are seeking for asylum. The time limit is three months if upon arrival you have presented a valid and authenticated passport or other travel document to the authorities when you applied. If you did not present such a document, the time limit to start working is six months.

The Finnish law states that asylum seekers have the right to work without having to apply for it separately. To work may also be an advantage in order to stay in the country permanently, because if the employment situation is continuous you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of work.

An asylum seeker has the right to work until the decision on his or her asylum application is definitive. If the Finnish Immigration Service makes a positive decision, you are granted a residence permit, which normally includes the right to work. If the decision is to deny you the asylum, you have the right to work only while the processing of your potential appeal. The right to work expires if the person is removed from the country.

It is important not to work while you are not entitled to do it. And if your right to work expires, you have to inform your employer because otherwise both of you can be punished.

Waiting for the resolution

After you have attended your asylum interview, your application will be sent to the processing queue and from there it will attended by one of the decision-makers.

There is no stated processing time. This will depend sometimes on the personal situation of the applicant, so do not get angry if you are informed that someone who arrived in Finland after you or at the same time as you has received the decision and yours is still pending. It is hard, but there is nothing else you can do but waiting. Migri will contact you in case that something is missing from your application.

To calculate the approximate processing time of your application, you can click HERE

The final decision

When Migri has made a decision on your application, you will be informed by the Finnish Immigration Service or by the Police in your mother tongue or any other language you understand. If necessary, an interpreter or translator will be hired to inform you.

If you have applied of other type of residence permit in addition to asylum, Migri will usually make a decision on both applications and inform on both at the same act.

If Migri’s decision is positive, you may get the asylum or refugee, subsidiary protection or a residence permit on other grounds.

When the decision is negative, the applicant has the right to appeal to the Administrative Court. Those who don´t appeal lose the right to stay in Finland and must leave the country.

For more information about how to submit your appeal, click HERE

If you wish to leave Finland, you can apply for assisted voluntary return. Find more information HERE

Reasons for refusal

Finland does not grant asylum or subsidiary protection status even to those people who meet the requirements if they have committed, or there are reasonable suspects that have committed, any of the following:

  1. A war crime or a crime against humanity
  2. A serious non-political crime before entering Finland
  3. An act which violates the aims and principles of the United Nations

Applicants may also be refused if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that have committed an aggravated crime in Finland or before arriving in Finland.

To download Migri's general instructions guide for asylum seekers, click HERE

Quick guide for asylum seekers in Finland