Enough time and resources should be reserved for the comprehensive reform of the Aliens Act
A study commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior explored ways to anticipate future needs for amendments when drafting legislation. To this end, the study looked into the amendments made to the Aliens Act and the motivations behind them. The study was carried out by Åbo Akademi University in cooperation with researchers from the University of Turku.
Since it entered into force in 2004, the Aliens Act has been amended about 90 times, with amendments made to 85 per cent of the original sections. The large number of individual amendments has had a negative impact on the structure of the Act, making it confusing and difficult to understand.
An analysis of government proposals on the matter revealed that during 2004–2022 review period, most of the amendments made to the Aliens Act were due to changes in EU regulation, government measures and other legislation related to the Act. Digitalisation and technological development were not yet significant drivers of change during the review period, but constant attention must now be paid to these factors when drafting legislation.
The researchers studied factors that reinforce the sustainability of legislation by examining EU regulation, fundamental and human rights practice related to the Aliens Act, and reports on the quality of legislation. According to the study, sustainable legislation requires an accurate situational picture, controlled changes, and a high-quality and adequately resourced legislative process.
Migration has become increasingly important for Finland, and the hope is that it will offer a solution to labour shortages, problems with the economic dependency ratio and other challenges. Against this background, the study states that it is important for Finland to develop a long-term migration policy. As with migration policy, the comprehensive reform of the Aliens Act should also start by setting objectives. A lack of clear objectives may lead to an inconsistent or contradictory outcome.
Recommendations on resources, use of decrees and EU cooperation
In their conclusion, the researchers give four recommendations for the comprehensive reform of the Aliens Act:
1. The Aliens Act plays a key role in implementing the long-term objectives of migration policy, which is vital for Finland. It is therefore important to ensure that enough time is reserved for the comprehensive reform. The reform of the Aliens Act could also be implemented in subprojects in order of urgency, as was done with the comprehensive reform of the Criminal Code.
2. A major comprehensive reform also requires sufficient human resources to ensure a high-quality legislative process. With this in mind, adequate resources must be provided for the reform of the Aliens Act.
3. The Aliens Act is a complex, detailed and extensive piece of legislation that has been further complicated by the implementation of EU regulations. In the comprehensive reform, legislators should remain open to the possibility of using government decrees more extensively.
4. The comprehensive reform of the Aliens Act is essentially linked to the common migration and asylum policy of the EU, which Finland must continue to play an active role in developing. To the extent possible, the comprehensive reform of the Aliens Act must anticipate the progress of the EU’s legislative projects. If, for political reasons, these projects are unable to move forward in the EU for a long time, progress must be made according to a timetable that suits national needs if necessary.
Reform of the Aliens Act should start during the next government term
The Aliens Act is the law related to immigration with the broadest scope. It applies to the entry, exit, residence and work of foreigners in Finland.
The Ministry of the Interior began preliminary preparations for the reform of the Aliens Act in autumn 2021. The study supports this work: it was essential to determine which factors caused the current Act to become so complex and how to prevent the need for constant amendment in the future. The goal is to begin the actual work on the reform of the Act as a separate project during the next government term.
The study was produced as part of the Ministry of the Interior's research, development and innovation activities. Its conclusions can also be used more extensively by other ministries when drafting legislation.
Oona Alitalo, Doctoral Researcher, University of Turku, tel. +358 50 327 1573, [email protected]
Elina Pirjatanniemi, Professor, Åbo Akademi University, tel. +358 50 401 3735, [email protected]
Jutta Gras, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 295 488 650, [email protected]