Amendment to the reception act clarifies responsibilities for preparing for mass influx of migrants
The reception act will be amended so that the Finnish Immigration Service will have central responsibility for preparedness planning concerning the organisation of reception services in the event of a mass influx of migrants. The President of the Republic approved the bill for the act on Thursday 16 December. The act will enter into force on 1 January 2022.
The amendment will improve preparedness for large numbers of migrants and clarify the division of duties between the authorities. The overall responsibility for preparedness planning and measures will be transferred to the Finnish Immigration Service, which has the lead in operational responsibility in the event of a mass influx of migrants. It also has the highest level of expertise in organising reception services.
The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) have previously maintained regional cooperation groups, whose members include not only authorities but also municipalities, organisations and parishes. However, dividing preparedness planning between several actors has been considered difficult. As a result of the amendment, the responsibility for regional cooperation will be transferred to the Finnish Immigration Service.
In addition, the provision in the reception act concerning the municipalities’ obligation to establish reception and registration centres will be removed, as the municipalities enjoy wide-ranging autonomy under the Constitution.
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 during the spring session 2022.
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 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.
In November 2021, the Ministry of the Interior also launched a project to assess legislation to help prepare for hybrid influencing that exploits migration. The project assesses the means of the current legislation that can be used to prepare for and respond to such hybrid influencing, as well as possible needs to amend the legislation in the administrative branch of the Ministry of the Interior. The project runs until 21 January 2022.
Few asylum applications submitted this year
A mass influx of migrants is a situation in which reception centres for asylum seekers, including additional accommodation, are reaching maximum capacity and the capacity needs to be further expanded, as there is a constant influx of new migrants. 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, and the effects of Belarus' actions, for example, have not been felt at Finland's external borders. Since 2018, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland has been smaller than before 2015. The number of new asylum applications submitted this year remains low and has not returned to the pre-pandemic level.
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.
Mari Helenius, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 214, [email protected] (amendment to the reception act, project to prepare for hybrid influencing that exploits migration)
Jorma Kantola, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 215, [email protected] (development of other legislation to prepare for mass influx of migrants)