On 19 January, the Ministry of the Interior sent out for comments draft legislative amendments that would support preparedness for a possible mass influx of migrants. This is a follow-up to the government proposal for amending the reception act last year. The need for change has been identified in the development work that the authorities have been carrying out since 2015.
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 to assist in guidance and supervision tasks in detention units. In this way, the detention capacity could also be increased more quickly if there was a need for it in the event of a mass influx of migrants.
Provisions on enlisting support from the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) would be added to the Aliens Act. The new Agency for Asylum will replace the current European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The related EU Regulation entered into force on 19 January. If necessary, the Agency could be asked to send support teams consisting of EUAA staff members and officials from other EU countries to Finland. The submission of the request would be decided at the government plenary session.
The Aliens Act and the act on migration authorities’ processing of personal data would be amended so that the support team members would have the power and actual possibilities to assist the Finnish Immigration Service in the asylum examination.
The deadline for submitting comments is 17 February 2022. The government proposal is due to be submitted to Parliament during the spring session 2022.
Two government proposals prepared in the project
The Ministry of the Interior launched a project in August 2020 to prepare legislative amendments that would contribute to planning for a possible mass influx of migrants.
All draft bills supporting the preparations for a mass influx of migrants were sent out for comments in summer 2021. The comments revealed a need to further specify the regulation and solutions. In addition, during the consultation round, the EU reached agreement on the preparation of the new Regulation on the Agency for Asylum. This delayed the preparation of the national legislative amendment: it was based on the previous Regulation, which was now known to be repealed soon.
The legislative package of the project was divided into two separate government proposals so that Parliament had time to consider the proposal for amending the reception act already in connection with the amendment to the budget proposal for 2022. The amendment to the reception act entered into force on 1 January 2022. The Finnish Immigration Service now has central responsibility for preparedness planning concerning the organisation of reception services in the event of a mass influx of migrants.
Other legislative amendments supporting preparedness also under examination
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 term of the project has been extended until February 2022.
Few asylum applications submitted last 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's 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. In 2021, the number of new asylum applications remained low.
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.
Jorma Kantola, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 215, firstname.lastname@example.org (detention)
Sanna Montin, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 314, email@example.com (EU Agency for Asylum, project to prepare for hybrid influencing)