Ex-Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen (CD) has voiced her reservations about the idea of granting unsuccessful asylum seekers temporary residence permits.
Members of the Green League, Left Alliance, Social Democrats and Swedish People’s Party, in particular, have recently demanded that the temporary permits be re-instated as an alternative to forced returns, arguing that many asylum seekers are finding themselves in an intolerable situation in Finland.
The temporary permits were abolished in 2015, Räsänen’s final year as the Minister of the Interior.
She explains that section 51 of the aliens act, which lays out the grounds for granting residence permits to aliens in the event of inability to leave the country, was ambiguous to the extent that it became unclear whether or not unsuccessful asylum seekers could be returned to countries that refused to receive forced returnees -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
The Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) ultimately ruled that the legislation provides no grounds for enforcing forced returns to such countries and that, as a result, unsuccessful applicants from such countries should be granted temporary residence permits. The legislation also stipulated that the applicants were to be provided with reception services and became eligible for a permanent residence permit after a two-year residence in Finland.
“It would’ve been possible to get a residence permit simply by announcing that you’ll refuse to leave. It was an impossible situation,” Räsänen summarises in an interview with Uusi Suomi, reminding that unsuccessful asylum applicants are by definition not in need of international protection.
“If we hadn’t revised the law, it would’ve basically rendered the asylum procedure of officials completely needless. Our doors would’ve been wide open for asylum seekers from countries that don’t receive so-called forced returnees. Our capacity couldn’t have handled that.”
Räsänen estimates that the availability of temporary residence permits would also effectively serve as a pull factor. Had it not been for the decision to abolish temporary permits, she speculates, the number of asylum seekers could have risen even higher in Finland in 2015. The country received more than 30,000 asylum applications in 2015.
“I personally think it was very good that we changed the law in time, even though we at the time weren’t anticipating such a high number of asylum applicants in 2015. Otherwise there would’ve been many more of them,” she predicts.
Finland, she adds, must focus its resources on integrating and looking after the asylum applicants who receive a positive decision and are in need of international protection. “We have no option but to trust our officials and the justice system. It’s possible to appeal all the way to the Supreme Administrative Court,” reminds Räsänen.
She also stresses that she is a supporter of both humane immigration policies and proposals to raise the refugee quota.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi