Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen (Greens) spoke in the session hall of the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki on 16 March 2022. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)


MINISTER of the Interior Krista Mikkonen (Greens) on Monday viewed that it is important to streamline processes associated with taking in refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reported that Finnish officials have taken a couple of weeks, if not a month, to issue a decision on temporary protection, thereby hindering the ability of the refugees to access the labour markets.

Some EU countries have granted work permits to the refugees in a matter of days.

“It’s important that the process is made quicker. More resources are needed for registering [the refugees] and processing the decisions,” Mikkonen commented to Helsingin Sanomat. “One problem is the time it takes to create a residence permit card. It’d be good if you could get a temporary certificate of registration that allowed you to be active until the actual residence permit card is ready.”

About 14,200 Ukrainians have applied for temporary protection in Finland.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that more than 3,850,000 people have sought refuge outside Ukraine since 24 February, day one of the invasion by President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The European Union’s interior ministers convened yesterday to discuss the situation of the refugees and means to better coordinate efforts to help them.

“The statements placed emphasis particularly on the fact that most of the refugees are women and children and people in a very vulnerable position. Over a half of Ukraine’s children have lost their home and become refugees,” Mikkonen stated in a news conference held after the extraordinary meeting on Monday.

“Now we’re unfortunately seeing cases of human trafficking and crime against women and children.”

The interior ministers looked particularly into what member states could do to guarantee the safety of refugees. Mikkonen said the EU proposed that common procedures and instructions be drafted regarding the reception of children and the special support required to guarantee that minors, especially those fleeing alone, are protected.

The key to preventing crime and guaranteeing safety is to make sure all arrivals are registered, she added.

Poland is currently under the most pressure, having received nearly 60 per cent of those who have fled Ukraine. Also Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, will require special support from the EU.

“Some hoped that other countries take in refugees directly from Moldova. Many countries have already made the announcement. Also Finland considers it urgent to support Moldova,” said Mikkonen.

Finland, she affirmed, will bear its share of the responsibility to help people fleeing the war.

“We’re also ready to re-settle them from other countries to Finland. One of the EU’s ideas is that the re-settlements could be orchestrated by setting up centres where people fleeing Ukraine can receive information about the situation in member states and transport options,” she told.

The ministers also weighed up the issue of funding.

“The commission stressed that there are already financing instruments, such as funds, that could be used more flexibly. There was also some discussion about whether the existing funds are sufficient. I’m sure the talks will continue in that regard.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT