The Finnish Government considers that the number of persons living in the country illegally (for instance without a residence permit) has “remained rather low, despite expectations to the contrary”. In the year 2017, approximately 2,300 illegal residents were encountered in Finland, and in early 2018 (from January to July) this figure was approximately 1,100.
Those numbers are included in the Report for Finland on International Migration 2017-2018, published by the Finnish Ministry of Interior. In terms of nationality, the largest number of illegal residents found were from Estonia (331), followed by citizens of the Russian Federation (291) and Iraq (171) as the next largest groups. The study points out that the majority of the Estonians encountered illegally in the country were persons whose entry had been refused.
The report highlights also that, according to the Police, “the risk of illegal residence has grown, as the majority of the asylum seekers who arrived in Finland in 2015–2016 and who have been refused entry have appealed their decisions to courts of different degrees”.
In that sense, the report of the Ministry of the Interior echoes the explanation given by the National Police Board: “The enforcement of decisions to return illegal residents is hampered by subsequent asylum applications, which are submitted by many asylum seekers once they have been turned down by different courts of appeal. The police cannot return asylum seekers if they have a subsequent asylum application pending”.
Criminals “exploiting the asylum system”
The Finnish Police also considers that some criminal organisations may be trying to take advantage of the asylum system for their own benefit. According to the figures published in the report, during 2017 and in the first four months of 2018, "an increasing number of perpetrators of property crimes exploiting the asylum system were found in Finland".
The investigators point out that these people "have not necessarily entered the country illegally, but once they have been caught committing crimes, they apply for asylum in Finland". By taking them into custody and “fast-tracking the processing of obviously unfounded residence permit applications”, the police says "it has to some extent been possible to prevent the exploitation of the asylum process by itinerant crime".
Mediterranean and Arctic routes
According to the Border Guard, an "exceptionally sharp peak" in the number of illegal entries during the years 2015 and 2016 was linked “both to the aggravated situation at the Mediterranean EU borders and to the phenomenon of irregular migration on the so-called Arctic route through the Finnish-Russian Federation border”.
Currently, it can be assessed that most of the illegal entries to Finland are made “across the internal Schengen borders and are still often linked to illegal border crossings to the EU member states at the Mediterranean”. “However, the reintroduction of border checks at several internal Schengen borders has prevented major transit movements towards Finland since 2016. This is mirrored also in the relatively low number of new asylum applications made in Finland”, explains the Finnish Border Guard as part of its contribution to the report.
According to the latest report published by the Regional Representation for Northern Europe of The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Finland received in the first semester of 2018 1,470 new asylum seekers. The number of arrivals of asylum-seekers has been declining since 2015, when registered its peak (32,150) during the European refugee crisis. In 2016 there were 5,275 new arrivals and in 2017 the total number of asylum-seekers arrivals was 4,325.
Less willingness for voluntary return
The report on International Migration 2017-2018 published by the Ministry of Interior points out that the number of people who returned voluntarily to their countries of origin in 2017 amounted 1,422. The authorities consider this number as “significantly lower” than the previous year, when 2,113 people returned voluntarily.
The police has reported that asylum seeker’s willingness for voluntary return “has clearly reduced, and the number of those opposing their return has increased”. The police considers it possible that, at the conclusion of the process, “some of those refused residence permit will hide before they can be returned, stay illegally in Finland, or move to another European country”.
When someone refuses to leave Finland voluntarily, the police is responsible for handling his/her return. In 2017, the police were either involved in or returned 2,473 people with no legal residence permit in Finland. In 2016, the police returned more than 6,600 people. In 2015, the corresponding figure stood at 3,180.