Amendment to the reception act would clarify responsibilities for preparing for mass influx of migrants
The Government proposes that the reception act be amended so that the Finnish Immigration Service would have central responsibility for preparedness planning concerning the organisation of reception services in the event of a mass influx of migrants. The amendment would improve preparedness for large numbers of migrants and clarify the division of duties between the authorities. The Government submitted a proposal on the amendment to Parliament on 7 October.
At present, the Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for the reception system for asylum seekers and for general preparedness planning related to reception. The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) are responsible for the preparedness plans in their areas and maintain regional cooperation groups that coordinate preparedness planning related to a mass influx of migrants. Besides the authorities, the members of the regional cooperation groups include municipalities, organisations and parishes.
Dividing preparedness planning between several actors has been considered difficult. In the event of a mass influx of migrants, the Finnish Immigration Service has the lead in operational responsibility. Therefore, provisions on its coordinating role and tasks should be laid down by law too.
The proposed legislative amendment would transfer the overall responsibility for preparedness planning and measures to the Finnish Immigration Service, which has the strongest expertise in organising reception services. The responsibility for leading regional cooperation groups would be transferred from the ELY Centres to the Finnish Immigration Service. In addition, the provision in the current act on the municipalities’ obligation to establish reception and registration centres would be removed as the municipalities enjoy wide-ranging autonomy under the Constitution.
The amendment would increase the tasks of the Finnish Immigration Service and it would require three person-years of new human resources. For this reason, Parliament will discuss the legislative proposal in connection with the amendment to the budget proposal for 2022. The act is expected to enter into force as soon as possible.
Other legislative amendments supporting preparedness also under preparation
A project launched by the Ministry of the Interior in 2020 is also preparing other legislative amendments to support preparedness for a mass influx of migrants. The intention is to submit the related proposals to Parliament later.
The Act on the Treatment of Detained Aliens and on Detention Units would be amended in such a way that, in the event of a mass influx of migrants, persons who are not in a public-service employment relationship could also be temporarily employed for guidance and supervision tasks in detention units.
Provisions on enlisting support from the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) would be added to the Aliens Act. The new Agency for Asylum will replace the current European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and the related EU Regulation is expected to enter into force in early 2022. If necessary, the Agency could be asked to send support teams consisting of EUAA staff members and officials from other EU countries to Finland.
The act on migration authorities’ processing of personal data would be amended to allow the Finnish Immigration Service to disclose essential information to the support team members.
Record low number of new asylum applications
A mass influx of migrants is a situation in which reception centres for asylum seekers, including additional accommodation, are reaching maximum capacity and there is a constant influx of new migrants, with more arriving than leaving the country. Such a situation may arise gradually or abruptly, because of the massive displacement of people from a country towards Finland, for example.
At the moment, there is no expectation of a similar situation in the near future as that which occurred in 2015. Since 2018, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland has been smaller than before 2015, and about 900 first asylum applications have been submitted this year. The number is still record low.
It has been estimated that the situation in Afghanistan, for example, will also affect migration to Europe at some point. The fluctuations in migration volumes along different routes are closely monitored. Finland maintains an up-to-date picture of the situation both nationally and as part of the European Union.
Jorma Kantola, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 215, [email protected] (development of legislation to prepare for mass influx of migrants)
Mari Helenius, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 214, [email protected] (amendment to the reception act)