Finnish Immigration Service to reduce reception centre capacity as number of new asylum seekers remains low
In light of the low number of new arrivals of asylum seekers in Finland, the Finnish Immigration Service is reducing the capacity of reception centres to more closely meet current needs.
Last year saw comparatively few new arrivals of asylum seekers, with 1,277 first asylum applications submitted. The number of new arrivals has also been low this year, as 356 new asylum applications were lodged between January and June 2021. Afghan, Iraqi, and Somali nationals topped the list of new asylum applicants.
‘As international travel has become easier since spring, the number of asylum applicants has seen a slight increase in Finland and elsewhere. Despite the uptick, application volumes are still clearly below pre-pandemic levels’, said Asylum Unit Director Antti Lehtinen.
The total number of asylum applications lodged during the first half of the year was 1,032. In addition to new applications for asylum, 676 subsequent applications were submitted. Subsequent applications are asylum applications lodged by a client after receiving a final decision from the
Finnish Immigration Service or an administrative court on an earlier application. If the asylum seeker in question has been absent from Finland for a substantial amount of time between applications, an application they submit is not considered a subsequent application. Iraqis have lodged the most subsequent applications this year.
‘The decrease in application volumes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has made it easier to clear the backlog of applications that had accumulated’, said Lehtinen.
Accommodation capacity at reception centres to be reduced
The Finnish Immigration Service is set to scale down capacity at six reception centres by a total of 153 beds.
‘We expect an increase in the number of asylum seekers as pandemic restrictions are phased out. It makes operational and financial sense to adjust the capacity of existing reception centres rather than shut them down and establish new centres later’, said Kimmo Lehto, Head of Section at the Finnish Immigration Service’s Reception Unit.
Some 5,160 asylum seekers are currently registered in the reception system, with approximately 2,250 of them living in reception centres. The number of available beds currently stands at around 1,100, of which some 250 are extra beds. During the coronavirus pandemic, the need for beds has decreased by approximately 140 per month.
The Finnish Immigration Service aims for a reception centre capacity that corresponds to the existing need, with the average occupancy rate target currently at 75 per cent. The Finnish Immigration Service actively monitors asylum application volumes and client profiles, and reacts to possible changes.
In addition to the capacity reductions, the operations of three reception centres will see changes at the end of the year. The Lammi reception centre will be renamed the Hämeenlinna reception centre as its operations are relocated to the centre of that city. The Jyväskylä reception centre will be converted into an apartment-based centre, while the Mikkeli reception centre will combine institutional and apartment-based accommodation.
‘We are developing the reception centres to make them more adaptable and cost-effective while providing better services’, Lehto said.
Capacity reductions at reception centres:
- Joutseno Reception Centre, Finnish Immigration Service. Capacity reduced by 50 beds. New capacity 250 beds as from 1 August 2021.
- Oulu Reception Centre, Finnish Immigration Service. Capacity reduced by 60 beds. New capacity 200 beds as from 1 August 2021.
- Hämeenkyrö Hybrid Unit, Finnish Red Cross. Capacity reduced by 10 beds. New capacity 20 beds as from 1 October 2021.
- Kotka Hybrid Unit, City of Kotka. Capacity reduced by 8 beds. New capacity 28 beds as from 1 October 2021.
- Oravais Hybrid Unit, Vörå municipality. Capacity reduced by 5 beds. New capacity 38 beds as from 1 October 2021.
- Jyväskylä Reception Centre, Finnish Red Cross. Capacity reduced by 20 beds. New capacity 150 beds in apartment-based accommodation as from 1 January 2022.
Other changes to the reception system:
- Lammi Reception Centre, Finnish Red Cross. The offices and most apartments of the reception centre will be relocated to central Hämeenlinna by 1 January 2022. With the move, the centre will also be renamed the Hämeenlinna Reception Centre.
- Mikkeli Reception Centre, Finnish Red Cross. Gradually converted into a centre with both institutional and apartment-based accommodation as from 1 January 2022.