Iraqi asylum seekers warmed their hands over a barbecue grill at the Station Square in Helsinki on 6 March 2017. (Credit: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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BORDER POLICY is partly to blame for the sharp increase recorded in the number of undocumented immigrants in Finland, state researchers Talvikki Ahonen and Annastiina Kallius.

“Finland’s stricter aliens legislation and its interpretation have effectively contributed to the growth of the group of undocumented people – that is, people residing in the country without a residence permit,” the researchers write in a book about asylum seekers and refugees in Finland.

The book was published earlier this year by the Migration Institute of Finland.

Ahonen and Kallius point out that the number of undocumented residents, including people who have been denied asylum but who, despite the efforts of authorities, have yet to be removed from the country, is believed to have stood at around 3,000–4,000 in Finland in 2017.

The number is based on an estimate made in Paperittomat Suomessa 2017 (Eng. The Undocumented in Finland 2017), a report published by the University of Turku.

The authors of the report gauge that 10,000–15,000 of the over 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived in the country two years earlier could have wound up, at least temporarily, as undocumented immigrants at some point in the asylum procedure. They also estimate that thousands of such people may have left the country unbeknownst to authorities.

“Given the lack of precise data on departures and the non-completion of the asylum procedure, we can only offer an estimate that 4,000–8,000 of the asylum seekers who arrived in 2015 could stay in Finland as undocumented people,” the report reads.

“The number can decrease substantially depending on how many of them voluntarily leave Finland and how effectively authorities remove people facing a deportation order from Finland.”

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has estimated that the country was home to fewer than 3,500 undocumented immigrants in 2014.

Ahonen and Kallius single out a number of institutions for blame for the “production” of undocumented immigrants: the European Commission, Finnish government, Finnish Parliament and Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). Other key authorities responsible for controlling undocumented immigration are municipalities, ministries and the police, according to the duo.

“Although the responsibility for drafting legislation to prevent undocumented immigration lies primarily with the government and Parliament, the Finnish Immigration Service’s (Migri) role and influence has grown substantially.”

They also view that the role of the government in the rise in the number of undocumented people has been not only subjected to insufficient public scrutiny, but also downplayed.

The Finnish government, they argue, has sought to attribute the phenomenon to undocumented immigrants themselves, even though the phenomenon “is produced and managed by the societal structures and border policy of Finland”.

“For example, the list of countries of origin that were considered safe was extended, regulations governing the family reunifications of refugees toughened and the appeal period of unsuccessful asylum seekers shortened,” write Ahonen and Kallius.

Ahonen is a junior researcher of social policy at the University of Eastern Finland. Kallius, in turn, is a doctoral researcher of sociology and social anthropology at the University of Helsinki.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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