17:13 GMT +306 December 2019
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    Migrants arrive at a refugee reception centre in Tornio,Finland  (File)

    Finland Shuts the Door on New Refugees, Struggles to Keep Track of Old Ones

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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

    Finnish immigration officials have revised their security assessments for Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, which last year contributed the largest number of refugees to the Nordic country. Now, authorities believe these countries to be safe to return to, thus making it more difficult for asylum seekers to receive residence permits in Finland.

    According to Finland's immigration authorities, who have re-assessed the security situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, major improvements have been noticed, thus making it safe for nationals to return to their home countries, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.

    Curiously, Finland's Foreign Ministry still dissuades Finnish citizens from visiting these countries due to security risks. Meanwhile, Daesh still holds key cities and vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq, which it seized in 2014. Only yesterday, a total of four explosions took 44 lives and injured over 90 in Iraq, which seems to have plunged deeper into chaos and sectarian violence.

    Finnish customs officers stop and inspect cars on Finland's northern border with Sweden to prevent illegal immigration and human trafficking.
    © AFP 2019 / Lehtikuva / PANU POHJOLA
    At the same time, Finland has ended the practice of granting residence permits to those denied asylum for humanitarian protection due to legal reforms that took effect on Monday. Previously, Finland granted a few hundred residence permits annually in an attempt to provide for the humanitarian protection of applicants coming mainly from Iraq and Somalia. This rule was applied in cases where the applicants' country of origin didn't meet the protection requirements and it was deemed unsafe to return to. Now, asylum seekers will only be allowed to stay if they can prove that they were individually at risk.

    Despite the significant drop in the flow of refugees, Finland is still struggling with the consequences of last year's immigration disaster. Over 2,500 asylum seekers have been reported missing from reception centers, Yle reported, citing the Central Criminal Police.

    According to Päivi Nerg of the Interior Ministry, the situation raises concern. The number of missing refugees can be called "great," she argued, citing the risk that the fugitives may resort to criminal activity.

    "This phenomenon seems to be a threat to Finland," she told Yle, expressing fear the runaways may have already left Finland, as the country lacks a mechanism to follow their path once they have been registered in a reception center.

    At the same time, Nerg stressed that it is close to impossible to live a paperless, 'off-the-grid' life in Finland.

    "You won't be able to work, you won't be granted any support, you won't even be able to open a bank account. You won't really be able to live a normal life without papers," she told Yle.

    This is not the first time asylum seekers have "evaporated" from European reception centers. Some 13 percent of all migrants who officially entered Germany in 2015 never turned up at the accommodation provided for them, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in late February.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)


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    refugee crisis, immigration policy, migrant crisis, Yle, Daesh, Scandinavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Finland
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