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Finnish Immigration Service sees decrease in need for reception centre capacity

Publication date 28.7.2023 12.56

The overall need for reception capacity has decreased, as fewer Ukrainians have arrived in the country than last year, while many have left the reception system. As the need for capacity decreases, several reception centres will be closed.

The Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for the coordination, planning and supervision of the reception system. The number and capacity of reception centres required depends on the number of people arriving in Finland seeking international and temporary protection. 

In recent years, the number of asylum seekers has been moderate. However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 60,000 temporary protection applicants have arrived in Finland. To accommodate the peak in arrivals, nearly 100 new reception centres were opened around the country. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 20 reception centres and seven minors’ units were in operation in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service has reception centres in Helsinki, Lappeenranta (Joutseno) and Oulu. Other reception centres are run by organisations, municipalities and private enterprises, among others.

In 2023, the number of arrivals has been significantly lower than the previous year. In addition, many Ukrainians are moving from reception centres to municipalities. When the number of customers in the reception system decreases, the capacity is adjusted accordingly, and the total number of reception centres is reduced. 

“The Finnish Immigration Service has recently decided to close eight reception centres. Before the closures, the capacity exceeded the demand from the preparedness perspective. It was therefore decided to close the centres with the highest overall costs. We are expecting that with the decreasing number of customers, the reception capacity will be further adjusted closer to the level before the war in Ukraine,” says the Director of the Reception Unit Elina Nurmi.

Reception centres are subject to extensive competition

The Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts obliges the Finnish Immigration Service to regularly organise competitive tendering for reception centre capacity. As a result of competitive tendering, service providers and reception centre units may change from time to time.

“In addition to the decrease in the number of arrivals, reception centres sometimes also need to be closed down because the Finnish Immigration Service must comply with the law on public procurement in its operations and place the service contracts under competitive tendering. This means services providers and reception centre units will inevitably change, but it is our aim that these changes cause as little inconvenience or changes to customers’ everyday lives as possible. However, customers may need to relocate and sometimes, unfortunately, unwelcome disruptions to our customers’ lives cannot be completely avoided,” says Nurmi.

The Finnish Immigration Service’s primary aim is to avoid the relocation of customers from one locality or reception centre to another. If this is impossible, the Finnish Immigration Service aims to enable at least those customers who are working or studying for a degree to stay within the same area. 

Ukrainians have the opportunity to become municipal residents

More than 45,000 people who fled Ukraine last year can apply for a municipality of residence in Finland in 2023 after staying in Finland for a continuous year. After receiving a municipality of residence, those who have fled Ukraine switch from being customers of the reception services to services users of municipalities and wellbeing services counties. Municipalities provide Ukrainians with a range of integration and employment services.

In principle, the reception system is intended only for temporary, not permanent, accommodation. Customers are encouraged to transfer to municipal service provision as soon as this become possible with the right to apply for a municipality of residence. One of the advantages of applying for a municipality of residence is that those eligible may choose their place of residence. 

How the municipality affects the lives of Ukrainians:

  • If the customer has previously lived in a reception centre or in accommodation arranged by a reception centre, the accommodation must be arranged and paid for by the customer in the future. Ukrainians who have received a municipality of residence have the right to apply for social assistance and a housing allowance from Kela.
  • The right to work will continue unchanged. A person receiving temporary protection may register with the TE Office as an unemployed job seeker. Once the municipality of residence has been confirmed, the customer can access the municipal work try-out scheme if the municipality in question participates in the scheme.
  • Obtaining a municipality of residence also makes it easier to arrange child care: the child has the right to a place in early childhood education, even if both parents or one of them is staying at home. A child of preschool age is obliged to participate in preschool education, and children and young people of compulsory school age are subject to compulsory schooling.
  • Social and health services are no longer available for municipal residents through the reception centre. They are provided by the wellbeing services county. The municipal residence status gives the right to various social services, while the provision of health services remains unchanged.

Further information for the media