In just five days, Migri went from announcing layoffs to promising a "considerable reduction" of processing times. In between, the Government proposed to allocate 5.8 million euros to prevent its collapse. Why were the agency's customers the last to know?
From announcing temporary layoffs in 2019 and job cuts among its workforce in 2020 to promise "a considerable reduction" of processing times in 2020.
Between both releases only five days passed. What happened for things to change so quickly? Basically, the Finnish Government's commitment to allocate 5.8 million euros to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).
Since July, Migri had been complaining about lack of staff and announcing delays in the processing of applications, for example for residence permits for work and family ties and also for citizenship applications.
Those delays had earned the agency harsh criticism from employers, students and foreign workers, who sometimes have to wait half a year before joining their educational institutions or companies, simply because permits do not arrive on time.
Last Tuesday, the Government decided it is time to put an end to this matter, which is beginning to affect Finland's reputation and ability to attract the highly qualified workforce that the Government says it needs.
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo proposed to allocate an additional 4.7 million euros to finance Migri's operations until the end of the year and another 1.1 million to develop its IT system.
Maahanmuuttoviraston loppuvuoden resurssit turvataan. @Maahanmuuttovir esitetään #lisätalousarvio’ssa 4,7 milj. toiminnan turvaamiseen ja 1,1 milj. ICT-kehittämiseen. Lupakäsittely turvataan, lomautuksia ei tarvita.https://t.co/9ognNi496R— Maria Ohisalo (@MariaOhisalo) October 29, 2019
Four hours had passed since Ohisalo's announcement and Migri published a press release (only in Finnish) promising to review its procedures in order to achieve a "considerable reduction" in processing times.
However, Migri's customers could not learn about it until two days later, when the agency decided to release the text also in English.
In the release, Migri claims to be "launching a change project to considerably reduce processing times and to improve the customer service".
"Our key method is adding automation to the permit processes. The Finnish Immigration Service is well prepared to implement the necessary reforms," said Director General Jaana Vuorio.
According to the release, Migri will analyse the different residence permit processes and "make the necessary organisational changes in 2020 to reorganize its operations in preparation for automation".
"The reforms form part of the implementation of the Finnish Immigration Service’s strategy, which focuses on efficient operations and customer-oriented processes", the agency stressed.
According to Migri, immigration to Finland has undergone several changes in recent years, with an increasing number of persons moving for work or studies or because of family ties.
"Immigration is increasing, and the residence permit processes need to be efficient to meet the needs connected with work-related immigration", says Vuorio.
The number of first applications submitted by asylum seekers, in turn, is decreasing after the peak recorded in 2015. Now, even though the number of new arrivals is low, the load of work caused by what Migri called the "exceptional asylum situation of 2015" can still be perceived, for example, in the amount subsequent applications.
One week before, Migri had announced temporary layoffs of two weeks in November and December 2019, a period in which the agency would operate "in a reduced capacity". And by 2020, the agency expected a reduction of 120 jobs among its workforce.
Now Migri's managers promised that, if the funding proposed by the Government is granted, they will be able to "cancel the planned layoffs, which will help to launch the change project efficiently".