Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) attended a plenary session in parliament on 4 October 2023. Rantanen on Tuesday represented Finland at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Nordic ministers agreed on three initiatives to address what, she said, has been a stone in the shoe: the returns of immigrants. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)


NORDIC MINISTERS have agreed to deepen co-operation on the returns of immigrants at a meeting organised in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Tuesday, 31 October.

“All Nordic countries are now headed in the same direction in terms of policy and have a shared situational picture, so it’s an opportune time to deepen co-operation,” Finnish Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) was quoted saying after the meeting by Helsingin Sanomat.

She viewed that returns have been a “stone in the shoe” for Finland, the Nordics and Europe.

Their security implications, meanwhile, have garnered further attention following recent events in Europe, specifically the killing of two Swedish football fans in Brussels, Belgium, on 16 October. The gunman was residing illegally in Belgium.

The ministers agreed on three immigration-related initiatives, according to Helsingin Sanomat: to promote voluntary returns in co-operation with source countries; to enhance co-operation on returns with Frontex, the centre of excellence for border control at the EU; and to assist the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in organising voluntary returns for immigrants who are stuck in North Africa.

“Having Frontex flights out of the Nordics would be good, for example,” noted Rantanen.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has ruled that no one should be returned to their home country if there is a risk that the returnee faces persecution, is subjected to torture or ends up in the middle of hostilities.

The Finnish government outlines in its action plan that people who have been denied a residence permit should be returned to their home country as quickly as possible. Executing the position has proven trickier, however, because the home countries of immigrants may be reluctant to co-operate on returns.

According to Rantanen, Iraq and Somalia have proven particularly difficult.

“The starting pint is always that countries should receive their own nationals. Our government programme mentions freezing development co-operation,” she commented on measures to promote returns.

Also trade and visa policy could be utilised to that effect.

Rantanen also estimated that asylum seekers should be notified at the start of the application process that they have the opportunity to return voluntarily after a possible negative decision. The legitimacy of asylum policy, she added, will erode if asylum seekers are allowed to stay regardless of the decision.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT