Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) spoke to the media ahead of a plenary session in the Finnish Parliament on 3 April 2024. Rantanen on Thursday announced the government has approved a series of proposals designed to introduce tougher immigration provisions in Finland. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT on Thursday approved a series of amendments to immigration and citizenship laws for presentation to parliament.

Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) stated at a press conference yesterday that the amendments make up the first part of a legislative package designed to introduce more stringent immigration provisions in Finland.

The government, she reminded, agreed in its action plan to minimise the utilisation of the asylum mechanism that is founded on crossing the border to Europe and seeking asylum in Finland. It will instead seek to help people in vulnerable circumstances in their countries of origin.

Designed to adopt tougher conditions for international protection, combat the circumvention of immigration rules, expedite the removal of unsuccessful asylum seekers, reduce the reception allowance and introduce tighter requirements for citizenship, the amendments will be implemented in phases.

The citizenship act is to be amended to increase the residence requirement from five to eight years and do away with the derogation that has been granted to recipients of international protection. Additionally, stays in the country without a residence permit, including during the asylum process, would not be counted toward the requirement and the acceptable periods of absence would be limited to one year.

“In the autumn, we’ll present the second part of the citizenship act [amendments] to parliament, raising the income requirement and the integrity requirement. The rules on family reunifications will become tougher, and we’ll also bring proposals that tighten the rules on entry bans and detention,” commented Rantanen.

The government is set to make international protection temporary and shorten the duration of residence permits based on international protection from four to three years – to the minimum allowed by the EU. People could also lose their international protection status if they have committed a particularly serious crime or deemed to have posed a threat to national security in Finland.

The reception allowance and spending allowance are to reduced temporarily, until the end of next year, in order to generate cost savings of about 16 million euros in 2024–2025.

The government also proposed that asylum seekers whose claims are pending or have been rejected be prohibited from “changing lanes” and applying for a work or education-based residence permit. Rantanen on Thursday said the objective is to discourage people from applying for asylum solely with the intention of working or studying in Finland.

Its amendments would also establish a more stringent identity verification process for asylum applicants.

The aliens act is to be amended to specify all grounds for invalidating residence permits, including the provision of incorrect information, illegal residence, illegal employment or sham marriage.

Rantanen on Thursday outlined that the aim of the amendments is to stress the importance of adhering to the rules of society, combat reprehensible actions and make it more difficult to unlawfully enter Finnish society.

The government yesterday also presented its proposal on the so-called border procedure, which could be applied to “probably unfounded” asylum applicants submitted at or in the vicinity of the external borders of the EU. Applicants entered into the procedure would be denied the right to move freely in the country for the duration of processing and, effectively, be required to stay on the premises of the reception centre they have been assigned to.

Its purpose is to expedite both the processing of unfounded applications and returns of unsuccessful applicants to their country of origin.

The government stated that the border procedure should be applicable in all circumstances, rather than exclusively in circumstances where the country is faced with large-scale or instrumentalised migration.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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