Study explores combined effects of Aliens Act amendments – many recommended measures now under preparation
A study commissioned by the Government investigated the combined impacts of the amendments made to the Aliens Act in 2015–2019 on the status of people applying for and receiving international protection and on the realisation of the best interests of the child. The decision to carry out the study was based on an objective set in the Government Programme, which states that the Government will investigate the effects of amendments to the Aliens Act and application practices on legal protection. The aim was to obtain an overall picture of the situation and produce recommendations for measures. The research group submitted its report to Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo on 16 February.
According to the study, the legislative amendments made to improve the efficiency of the asylum process have weakened the position of applicants, as they seem to have increased the need for appeals and subsequent applications. There are now fewer different types of residence permits available: humanitarian protection, which was previously a category of residence permit in Finland, has been discontinued, and temporary residence permits are no longer issued to people who have the opportunity to return to their country of origin with support on their own initiative. Since not all people without a residence permit choose to leave the country, and since it may not be possible to remove them through official measures, various marginalised groups have emerged.
The study finds that the many changes made to the Aliens Act have made it increasingly difficult to understand as a whole.
Based on their observations, the researchers recommend ten measures that would, for instance, improve the status of people staying the country without the right of residence, safeguard children’s best interests and develop human and child rights impact assessments in legislative drafting. Further recommendations include securing financing for central operators and increasing training in the field. The researchers also recommend assessing the need for an overall reform of the Aliens Act.
“We at the Ministry of the Interior will now examine the recommendations carefully and agree on further action. The study provides us with valuable information that we can also use in political decision-making,” says Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo.
“I see the issues raised in the study to a large extent as questions of the rule of law: it is about the realisation of the rights of the most vulnerable people, such as the right to life, family life and legal protection. These are issues we need to take care of. The recommendations also support work that is largely already under way. Now it is important to bring this work to completion so that we can safeguard people's fundamental rights,” Ohisalo continues.
Combating parallel society and realising children’s best interests are topical targets for development
Since the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of the Interior has explored comprehensive ways to prevent the emergence of a “parallel society”. This work is linked to the updated Action Plan for the Prevention of Irregular Entry and Stay in Finland, which will be completed in early 2021.
The legislation on family reunification is currently being examined from the perspective of safeguarding the best interests of the child. The Ministry of the Interior is preparing an amendment to the Aliens Act aiming to lift the requirement for sufficient financial resources for minor sponsors who have been granted a residence permit based on international protection.
The Finnish Immigration Service has also made efforts to develop its decision-making with regard to minors and ensure adequate assessment of children's best interests so far, and its practices are continuously subject to oversight of legality.
Sufficient resources needed to ensure that the Finnish Immigration Service functions effectively and smoothly
In recent years, changes in migration trends and the tasks of the authorities have made it difficult to determine the level of resources needed for the Finnish Immigration Service. The Ministry of the Interior is currently carrying out a project on the Immigration Service of the Future, which aims to ensure that the service corresponds to the needs of its clients and society. The project will continue until the end of 2021.
“This new study shows once again how important it is to make sure that the Finnish Immigration Service has the resources it needs. Without adequate, stable resources, the Finnish Immigration Service cannot function effectively. The project now under way will give us a comprehensive picture of the future operating environment of the Finnish Immigration Service and the level of staff and appropriations needed to respond to changes in the operating environment,” says Minister Ohisalo.
Need for study taken into account in Government Programme
The decision to carry out the study was based on an objective set in the Government Programme, which states that the Government will investigate the effects of amendments to the Aliens Act and application practices on legal protection. As far as international protection is concerned, amendments to the Aliens Act have been prepared in recent years as separate projects in the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice.
The research group included experts from Åbo Akademi University, the University of Turku, the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control and the Migration Institute of Finland. The group’s work was guided by a steering group with members from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The researchers carried out their work independently.
Minna Hulkkonen, Director General, Migration Department, tel. +358 295 488 600, [email protected]
Jorma Kantola, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 215, [email protected] (content of the research project)
Sameli Sivonen, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 406 6855, [email protected] (requests for interviews with Minister Ohisalo)