In the beginning of 2018, there were 43 units for adults and 6 units for minors. The number of reception centres reached an all-time high in February 2016 when there were 221 reception centres in operation. At that point, unaccompanied minors were staying at 22 additional locations consisting of folk high schools and their branch offices in different parts of Finland.
The Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for directing, planning and supervising the operations of all reception centres. Reception centres provide their clients with reception services in accordance with the Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection.
The state-owned reception centres are located in Lappeenranta (Joutseno) and Oulu. The rest of the reception centres are maintained by other operators, such as municipalities and the Finnish Red Cross. Asylum seekers may also choose to live in private accommodation, arranging their accommodation themselves.
Unaccompanied minors live in their own units which consist of group homes and supported housing units.
Asylum seekers do not necessarily stay in the same reception centre during the whole application process. At first, asylum seekers usually stay at a so called transit centre. After the asylum interview, they are transferred to another reception centre to wait for a decision.
An asylum seeker may choose to live somewhere else than in a reception centre. Some stay with friends or relatives. This is what we call private accommodation. Asylum seekers who do not live in a reception centre receive reception services from their nearest reception centre.
Maintaining unused accommodation capacity is expensive. That is why we aim to keep the accommodation capacity in reception centres as close to the real demand as possible at all times. Our goal is to maintain the occupancy rate at 90 per cent.
The number of reception centres varies in accordance with the number of asylum seekers. If the need for accommodation capacity is decreasing, some reception centres will be closed down and the number of beds will be reduced.
Based on the total expenses of the reception of asylum seekers in 2017, the average accommodation costs per day were 55 euros per person. The average cost includes all costs, such as the rent of reception centre facilities, property maintenance, employees’ salaries, material costs and services as well as the reception allowance which is paid to the residents.
Services in reception centres
An asylum seeker receives reception services from the reception centre where he or she is registered as a client. The reception services that an asylum seeker is entitled to receive are defined in Finnish law.
Reception services consist of:
social and health services
Each reception centre has a nurse or a public health nurse and either a social worker or a social counsellor.
Asylum seekers have the right to use an interpreter when handling official matters with Finnish authorities. In reception centres, this applies first and foremost to social and health services. If necessary, an interpreter can also be used in handling everyday matters.
work and study activities
Asylum seekers take lessons in the Finnish or Swedish language. In addition to language studies, asylum seekers participate in work activities arranged by the reception centre.
guidance and financial assistance for voluntary return.
Each reception centre has a nurse or a public health nurse. If needed, he or she refers clients to a doctor.
Asylum seekers who have reached the age of 18 have the right to acute and necessary medical treatment. Asylum seekers under 18 years of age have the right to get health care services on the same grounds as children who have a home municipality in Finland.
Asylum seekers are entitled to statutory social services, if a social worker or a social counsellor in a reception centre deems them necessary.
The social workers and social counsellors who work in reception centres also provide advice, guidance, help for solving social problems, and other types of support. In addition to social workers or social counsellors, all reception centres employ instructors.
Clients who live in reception centres plan and decide on their daily life themselves. They usually cook their meals and clean their rooms on their own. In some reception centres, however, meals are offered as part of the reception services.
Reception centres are not closed institutions. Clients are allowed to move freely, and they can have hobbies and take part in activities.
Asylum seekers' wellbeing
Reception centres are part of the social and health services system in Finland. Their staff consists mainly of instructors, nurses or public health nurses and social workers or social counsellors.
The employees of the reception centre monitor the clients' health and wellbeing proactively. Clients can also contact an employee and ask for help on their own initiative. If necessary, clients can be directed to receive external help and be evaluated by a professional outside the reception centre.
Clients whose behaviour is in some way problematic or disruptive are not placed in any one specific reception centre. One unit in Lahti provides intensified support for asylum seekers who do not need hospital care but are in need of more intensive support.
Asylum seekers receive ordinary mental health care, which may mean counselling, medication or inpatient care, depending on the situation of each individual. There are some places in the Helsinki region that are specialised in this target group.
Asylum seekers are often in a difficult life situation. Many suffer from symptoms such as insomnia, depression or anxiety. However, it is difficult to establish exact numbers.
Suicides in reception centres are rare. In 2016, one person committed suicide. In 2017 and 2018, the number was zero.
In contrast, cases of self-harm are discovered regularly in reception centres.
Several factors may lead a client to commit self-harm. The uncertain situation in life is one of them. However, there is a great degree of personal variation in the reasons why a client commits self-harm, the situation in which this happens and in how serious the situation is.
Reception allowance is financial support paid to asylum seekers who are waiting for their asylum application to be processed. The allowance is meant to cover the asylum seeker's immediate basic needs.
Asylum seekers can apply for reception allowance at their own reception centre.
The amount of the reception allowance and the conditions for receiving it are laid down in the Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection.
All asylum seekers are not eligible for the reception allowance. All income and funds reduce the allowance, so the actual amount of the reception allowance may vary. Asylum seekers with a job, for example, get a smaller sum.
When the police or the Border Guard register a person as an asylum seeker, they assess the applicant’s economic situation. The information is logged into a register, and the decision on granting the allowance will be made based on this information.
An applicant's need of financial support is assessed as he or she applies for the reception allowance on a regular basis.
Yes. An asylum seeker's reception allowance can be reduced if he or she refuses to participate in the study and work activities arranged by the reception centre.
All income reduces the amount of reception allowance.
The reception centre may also charge separately for the reception services it provides. This may be done with clients who have a job and whose salary is high enough so that it is possible to charge a fee for the services.
Study and work activities
One of the duties of a reception centre is to organise study and work activities for its clients. Studies usually mean lessons in the Finnish or Swedish language. In addition to language lessons, asylum seekers are given information about the Finnish society and the way it operates. Nowadays, work activities often involve cleaning and repair work on the reception centre premises.
Every asylum seeker must take a basic course on Finnish society taught in their reception centre.
The course is part of the work and study activities required under the Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection. All asylum seekers above the age of 16 must complete the course.
During the course, asylum seekers will gain a basic knowledge on the rights and obligations related to living at a reception centre. Another goal of the course is to provide asylum seekers with preparatory information on and a basic understanding of Finnish society.
The topics covered on the course include culture, legislation, equality, sexuality and working in Finland. The topics are discussed with the help of interpreters.
At the end of the course, clients are issued with a certificate in which they promise to follow the rules of Finnish society.
Asylum seekers staying in reception centres are waiting to find out if they will be allowed to stay in Finland or not. The actual integration process begins if the asylum seeker is given a positive decision on his or her application.
When an asylum seeker receives a positive decision, he or she stops being a client of the Finnish Immigration Service. Municipalities are responsible for the actual integration. Their work is steered by the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
Reception centres support activities that help an asylum seeker start an independent life if he or she is allowed to stay in Finland. Among other things, asylum seekers study the Finnish language and learn about Finnish society.