Security officials checked the identity documents of a passenger at Copenhagen Airport on 4 January, 2016.The decisions by Denmark and Sweden to launch identity checks at their borders will probably have an impact on the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland, estimates Esko Repo, the head of asylum affairs at the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

He reminds that Sweden's earlier decision to step up its border control efforts has already had a notable impact on the flow of asylum seekers into Finland.

“Sweden launched tighter border controls and clarified the preconditions for entry already in November. If [the preconditions] were not satisfied, the arrivals were required to apply for asylum or leave the country,” he states in an interview with Uusi Suomi.

This, he adds, has had a definite effect on the number of people arriving in Finland because practically all of the asylum applications filed since last summer were received on the northern border with Sweden.

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“The number of daily applicants peaked at more than 600 in the autumn, but in December we had days with no more than 10 or 20 applicants. The difference is considerable,” Repo highlights.

Päivi Nerg, a permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, acknowledges similarly that the impact of the measures taken earlier in Sweden have had a notable impact on the number of asylum seekers entering Finland. “The impact on Finland has really been quite considerable,” she tells Uusi Suomi.

Repo describes the route from Sweden to Finland via Tornio as “an arterial road for asylum seekers”. He considers it likely that the route will become less heavily trafficked if the possibly Finland-bound asylum seekers are stopped already at the borders of Denmark and Sweden.

Nerg contrastively estimates that the identity checks will only have a marginal effect on the flow of asylum seekers into Finland. “The numbers entering Finland are already so low,” she points out.

Repo doubts that gaining entry without identity documents is any easier through, for example, Russia. “I doubt people without passports whose sole intention is to travel here are allowed in at the borders of Russia,” he says.

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland may consequently fall short of the levels of last year, he estimates.

“If we examine data from the turn of the year, the number of asylum seekers varied between 15 and 35 per day. It's easy to calculate that if you have a steady daily flow of 10 applicants for one year, you will end up with a total of 3,600 – which was how many arrived in 2014. If you have a steady daily flow of 20 instead, you'll end up with roughly 7,000 over the course of one year.”

He reminds, however, that it is difficult to predict how the situation will change over the next 12 months.

“Drawing any far-reaching conclusions about asylum affairs is generally difficult based on a short time period. The recent decisions will surely have an impact similar to that of stepping up border controls, but only time will tell how the situation develops and – if Finland is the destination – whether [migrants] will look for other routes [into the country],” Repo explains.

Sweden launched identity checks at its borders in response to the high number of asylum seekers arriving in the country on 4 January. Denmark announced shortly afterwards that it will introduce similar checks at its border with Germany.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Björn Lindgren – Lehtikuva/AFP
Source: Uusi Suomi