Assistance for voluntary return increased
The maximum amount of assistance for voluntary return will be increased. In future, the maximum amount of financial assistance granted to adults who decide to return to their home countries voluntarily could be EUR 1,500, and to accompanying minors EUR 750. Previously, the maximum amount of financial assistance was EUR 1,000 for adults and EUR 600 for minors.
In addition to cash, assistance may be paid as in-kind assistance or as a combination of these two.
In-kind assistance may consist of various goods or services, such as helping the person to find work. The maximum amount of in-kind assistance may be EUR 2,500 for voluntarily returning adults and EUR 1,500 for accompanying minors.
Combined assistance, consisting of cash, goods and services, offers better opportunities for returnees to reintegrate. Returnees receiving in-kind assistance pay several visits to the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or some other relevant service provider in their home countries and, at the same time, receive the necessary advice and support for their return.
Voluntary return assistance may be given, for instance, to third country citizens who have sought international protection and who leave Finland voluntarily and permanently after cancelling their application or after their asylum application has been rejected.
EU strives to harmonise assistance for voluntary return
By increasing the maximum amount of return assistance, Finland would bring the assistance payable to returnees more in line with the assistance available in the other EU countries. The EU has launched a pilot project which aims to harmonise the amounts of assistance granted for voluntary return within the EU. The project has proposed that the amount of return assistance be EUR 2,500.
Return promoted by combining increased assistance and enhanced advice
The increased assistance also helps the authorities to promote voluntary return and better support the reintegration of returnees when the number of people who have been refused asylum is growing. By increasing the amount of assistance, Finland encourages voluntary return instead of non-voluntary return enforced by the authorities. Voluntary return is always the most humane option for returnees. The aim is also to increase voluntary return so that fewer and fewer people who have been refused asylum would stay in Finland without a residence permit.
The Finnish Immigration Service has already earlier focused attention and resources on voluntary return; it has used EU funding to appoint advisers on return issues to reception centres, improved guidance on voluntary return and made information on voluntary return available in many different languages. The combination of increased assistance and enhanced advice aims to increase the number of voluntary returnees.
Assistance for voluntary return may be cash, services or goods
Assistance for voluntary return may cover the costs of the return journey and financial assistance to enable the returning immigrant to start a new life in the home country. Assistance may be financial or consist of various goods or services helping the person to start a small business or secure entry to a degree programme or find a place to live, for example.
The assistance is granted by the Finnish Immigration Service or the relevant reception centre. Returns are carried out with the assistance of IOM. When deciding on the amount of assistance, consideration is given to the personal circumstances of the returnee and the conditions in the returnee’s home country. Granting assistance for voluntary return requires that a plan has been made regarding the use of assistance.
In 2016, the number of voluntary returnees totalled 2,113. By the end of August in 2017, a total of 1,034 people had returned to their home countries voluntarily. Of these, 79% returned to Iraq.
The relevant Ministry of the Interior Decree enters into force on 25 September 2017. The Decree will remain in force until the end of 2018.
Jorma Kantola, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 215, firstname.lastname@example.org