Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Finland, poster child of migrant relocation

  • Finland has already relocated 1,433 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, fulfilling 69 percent of its quota. (Photo: stopherjones)

Over the last two years, Finland has used the EU relocation scheme to provide shelter to a large number of vulnerable children.

Only two countries - Finland and Malta - are set to fulfil their initial pledges before the scheme, which aimed to relocate 160,000 people from Italy and Greece to other EU member states, closes in September.

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According to European Commission figures from 5 May, Finland has already relocated 1,433 out of 2,078 people, fulfilling 69 percent of its quota.

"For the remainder of our allocation, we pledge to take 100 people from Greece and 50 from Italy every month and we hope to receive our full allocation by the due date of 26 September," said Monna Airiainen, relocation officer at the Finnish immigration service.

She told EUobserver the scheme worked fine.

"We haven't experienced the process being slow. We send regular pledges and get regular transfers," she said.

Vulnerable groups

Finland has also followed the Council decision, which said that vulnerable applicants should be relocated in priority and that the best interests of children should always be a primary consideration.

"Finland has a long history with resettlement and there we have always prioritised those in the most vulnerable position. It is only natural then that we continue this tradition of relocation," Monna Airiainen said.

Roughly one third of the people relocated so far - 424 out of 1,433 - were children, 308 of which came with their families or other guardians. 116 of them were unaccompanied minors. Nineteen of those minors were underage mothers, with children of their own.

Most of them, 101, came from Syria, but there were also people from Iraq, Eritrea, Yemen, Burundi. Two of the individuals are stateless.

Finland also relocated at least 18 underage wives and their families - the youngest being 13.

Prioritising children is a specific goal of the EU relocation scheme. NGOs believe better compliance with the requirement would help to protect children from mistreatment during their asylum process.

Child migrants

Some children get stuck in hotspot camps for months, in conditions deemed by the European Court of Auditors to be "inappropriate" for children.

There have also been cases of children being abused and even killed in the camps.

In Finland, the average processing time for applications is approximately 100 days. The time-frame is even shorter for unaccompanied minors, who get first priority.

Forty-six of the 116 have already gone through the whole process and have been moved to permanent homes.

Another sign of success was that only one child, a girl, has disappeared after relocation.

The relocation scheme has been controversial in many countries, including Hungary and Slovakia that sued the measure before the EU court, and Austria, which has asked the commission for an exemption from its share.

Finland reluctantly agreed to take part in the scheme after seeking assurances from the EU that it would never become mandatory to take in refugees. The question of fulfilling the scheme had never become subject to a political debate in Finland, said Laura Yli-Vakkuri, director-general of international affairs at the Finnish ministry of the interior, to EUobserver.

"Implementing the relocation scheme is not really a political matter as the scheme is based on EU legislation in force. It is only natural to implement legislation," she said.

This article was independently created by EUobserver's editorial staff and is part of a series about unaccompanied migrant children. Costs for producing this article were funded in part by the Destination Unknown initiative.

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Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

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