At the moment, there are nearly 7,900 asylum seekers registered at reception centres whose applications have been rejected, according to the latest figures published by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).
Most of them are appealing their rejection to the Administrative Court, a process that should be carried out in 21 days.
According to legal sources consulted by Foreigner.fi, appealing to the Administrative Court opens the door to a waiting period that can be extended beyond a year until a judicial decision is reached. And the law says that an asylum seeker is allowed to stay in Finland for the duration of the processing of his/her asylum application.
Migri has made public the data on the number of rejected asylum seekers who remain in the reception centres in the framework of a press release with which it hopes to increase the interest of these people in the voluntary return program.
According to the figures released, in 2018 there were a total of 646 people who chose to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. The figure reflects a huge drop compared to 2017, when voluntary return was the option chosen by 1,425 people.
As explained Tarja Rantala, project manager of the Auda project, which supports voluntary return, "the most common reason for returning was having an asylum application rejected. Some withdrew from the process at their own initiative for various reasons. Many were surprised when they were told the criteria for being granted a residence permit".
"When things back home seemed to have calmed down, some asylum seekers felt that going back to their children or to sick parents would be more meaningful than sitting around in a reception centre", Tarja Rantala explained.
Last year, the Finnish Immigration Service added some resources to advisory services and publicity for applicants interested in returning home. Funding for these activities came from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union (AMIF).
Most returnees are Iraqi
The largest group of returnees in 2018 are Iraqi. According to Migri's numbers and conclusions, "the leading destination for voluntary returns from Finland is Iraq, with 449 returnees last year". By comparison, it is important to remark that for instance 18 people returned voluntarily to Afghanistan and 11 to Somalia.
Voluntary return is just an option if the applicant makes the decision and takes the initiative. Then, s/he may receive some financial assistance. The amount of this assistance is discretionary and varies depending on the country of origin.
The support may be granted in cash or as in-kind support. The amount of cash granted in support varies from 300 to 1,500 euros. In-kind support is given in the form of goods or services donated to the returnee upon return home. Returnees might use this in-kind assistance for instance to setup a small business or to pay the rent or for professional training.
The maximum amount of in-kind assistance for voluntary return was raised as of New Year up to 5,000 euros for an adult. A child returning home in the company of his/her family may receive a maximum of 1,500 euros in in-kind support. The amount of financial assistance granted in cash depends on the country and the circumstances of the returnee.
Meetings with returnees
The personnel of the Finnish immigration Service reported today that has met 32 voluntary returnees in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. All of them had previously been asylum seekers in Finland or elsewhere in Europe, but either their application had been rejected or they had themselves withdrawn from the process.
Interviews with those returnees and the organisations supporting them were conducted in Baghdad (Iraq), Hargeisa and Mogadishu (Somalia), Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan).
Migri says that "some of the interviewees said that they had not known enough about the criteria for being granted asylum before travelling to Finland or Europe. False information and attractive promises were spread particularly by the traffickers".
For checking the testimonies of the people interviewed and for further information on voluntary return in Finnish, English, Arabic, Dari, Sorani-Kurdish and Somali visit the website paluuinfo.fi HERE