To help ensure availability of a necessary workforce, asylum seekers’ right to work could be temporarily made more flexible
A temporary amendment to the Aliens Act has been proposed to extend asylum seekers’ right to work. The amendment would concern the start and end of their right to work. The Government submitted a proposal on the amendment to Parliament on Friday 8 May.
A shortage of seasonal employees from abroad is likely this year. This situation can be alleviated if the use of the labour force already in Finland is made more flexible. The amendment would give asylum seekers the right to work in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries as soon as the temporary act enters into force.
Additionally, the waiting periods for asylum seekers for taking up employment would be temporarily abolished. Under the current Aliens Act, an asylum seeker has the right to look for paid work three or six months after submitting an application, depending on whether he or she has a valid travel document or not. The abolishment of the waiting periods would apply to asylum seekers who are waiting for a decision concerning international protection either from the Finnish Immigration Service or from an administrative court at the time of the entry into force of the temporary act. Under the amendment, the time left in the waiting period would be set aside for those asylum seekers where the three- to six-month waiting period for their applications has not yet expired.
In addition, asylum seekers could temporarily continue working longer than at present in the above-mentioned sectors. Under the current Aliens Act, asylum seekers’ right to work ends when a decision requiring them to leave Finland that is connected to a negative asylum decision becomes enforceable. However, the new amendment would allow asylum seekers, despite an enforceable removal decision, to continue working while they are in the country due to the emergency conditions and receive reception services.
The aim is to ensure availability of essential seasonal employees
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, border traffic between Finland and other countries is currently limited to essential work-related and other necessary traffic. As a result of the restrictions, the entry of foreign labour has decreased significantly. This makes it challenging to find a sufficient number of workers, especially seasonal workers, in the agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries sectors.
In normal years, some 16,000 seasonal workers arrive in Finland. But this year, there will be substantially fewer seasonal workers arriving because of the coronavirus crisis. For this reason, we also need to find ways to employ a range of domestic and foreign workers who are already in Finland for critical tasks. In its negotiations on 6 May, the Government decided on measures to ensure the availability of seasonal labour needed in agriculture and horticulture.
Because of the emergency conditions, the amendment on the right of asylum seekers to work has been prepared within a short timeframe. The temporary act is scheduled to enter into force as soon as possible. It will remain in force until 31 October 2020.