The number of new asylum applications submitted to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) clearly decreased since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the border traffic restrictions came into force on 19 March, no asylum applications have been submitted at Finnish borders. And between that date and 30 April, the Immigration agency received 78 asylum applications, according to a press release.
Migri explained that most of these applicants have already resided in Finland before the restrictions on entry came into force. The date of arrival and the travel route of eight of them are still under examination through asylum investigation.
"In general, the number of new asylum seekers has been low in recent years, but right now the number of new applicants is exceptionally low due to the coronavirus," says Antti Lehtinen, Director of Asylum Unit.
In total, 502 first asylum applications have been submitted in 2020.
Despite the lockdown measures imposed by the Government, the Finnish Immigration Service has been making decisions on the pending asylum applications as usual. Asylum interviews were just temporarily interrupted from 16 March to 14 April.
Interviews in safe premises
Now the interviews are being held in premises where staff members and clients can be sufficiently protected from potential coronavirus infections. The equipment of interview rooms used include plexiglass screens, providing protection against the transmission of droplets, Migri says.
‘During the pandemic, it has been possible to shorten the application queue considerably. We have been able to make decisions in the usual way on the applicants that have already been interviewed, while there have only been a few new applications. For the clearly largest part of the remaining applications, interviewing the applicant is required for the application to proceed,’ Lehtinen says.
Applications for international protection can also be submitted during the exceptional circumstances. As is usual, the asylum application can only be submitted in Finland.
The police or Border Guard will receive the application when the asylum seeker arrives in Finland, and guide the applicant to a reception centre