The Finnish Immigration Office’s (Migri) service point in Helsinki in October 2019. Migri has come under heavy criticism, including calls to set up a new agency to attract foreign workers to Finland, following a Helsingin Sanomat report about the treatment of a Mongolian nurse. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH IMMIGRATION SERVICE (Migri) has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the permit application of a foreign-born nurse.

Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday reported that the Mongolian nurse, Anudari Boldbaatar, had to fight for a residence permit and face accusations of forgery essentially because the agency was incapable of interpreting the account statements she had provided as part of her application.

Boldbaatar, the newspaper wrote, completed a nursing degree in Helsinki in May 2020, in the midst of the first wave of coronavirus infections in Finland. After working a couple of months in the internal medicine ward of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), she volunteered to move to the intensive care unit to treat patients with Covid-19.

Migri in December 2020 denied her permit application and issued a deportation order with a two-year entry ban into the Schengen Area, accusing her of presenting forged documents. It declined to specify whether the accusation was linked to the payslips, account statements or employment contracts she had provided as proof of income, arguing that disclosing the information would go against a “very important public interest”.

The agency also took issue with the short-term nature of her employment at HUS and the Home Care Services Unit of the City of Helsinki. She had begun working in the care sector on a part-time basis as soon as she had completed the requisite number of study points.

Boldbaatar did not learn the exact nature of the accusations until after she was summoned to a police interrogation in May 2021. Migri, the interrogations revealed, was accusing her of presenting account statements that contained “so many miscalculations” that they could not be genuine.

She told the newspaper that it took her a couple of minutes to realise that the “miscalculations” were a misinterpretation of a feature she was using on Revolut, a banking service headquartered in London. The feature automatically set aside a small sum for saving in conjunction with each payment made from the account.

Migri in its request for inquiry argued both that the transactions were not reflected accurately in the account balance and that it was “unlikely” that a charge could be made from the account with two different methods at the same exact time.

The prosecutor chose not to bring charges in the case in August 2022.

Helsinki Administrative Court overturned the permit denial and remanded the case to Migri on 1 November. It also reprimanded the agency for denying the application based only on a suspicion and for not disclosing the grounds of its decision, a violation of her legal protection.

Boldbaatar, who had received a full-time employment contract in January 2022, had had enough, though, and left Finland in late November. “After this, I couldn’t imagine staying in Finland.”

“Kafkaesque”

Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) on Saturday described the case as Kafkaesque.

“This and many other experiences demonstrate that even though the direction of social goals and policy-making changes, it’s difficult to change the operational approach of such an old agency,” he commented on Twitter.

Migri, he reminded, was originally established specifically to prevent the entry of foreigners to Finland. He also viewed that the agency has fallen “light-years” behind the good service culture of other agencies, such as the Finnish Tax Administration.

Vartiainen said Ilkka Haahtela, the newly appointed director general of Migri, can hopefully bring about a change in the operational culture. Haahtela previously served as the head of employment and immigration affairs at the City of Helsinki.

Also Haahtela took part in the online debate prompted by the article by Helsingin Sanomat.

“My first comment is a genuine and profound apology to our customer and Finland,” he wrote in what was his first statement on Twitter.

Risto Siilasmaa, a board member at F-Secure, viewed that a completely new agency should be set up in order to get rid of an operational culture that has made it impossible to launch services that attract foreign labour to sectors struggling with a chronic labour shortage in Finland.

“We should establish a new agency for this purpose so that you can build the appropriate culture from the start,” he viewed.

Anne Brunila, a former senior executive at Fortum, asked if this is how one attracts skilled labour to Finland. “A person receives a nursing education and a permanent job in Finland, but Migri issues a deportation order because of its own moronic mistake,” she slammed.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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