"It is natural that relationships are on the increase. Asylum seekers are relatively young and unmarried people. Besides, marriage can also be a legitimate reason for obtaining a residence permit," Sanna Rummakko, a spokeswoman for Refugee Counseling, told Keskisuomalainen.
Some of the partnerships may have originated from volunteering, according to Elli Heikkilä, research director at the Migration Institute. At present, though, this link has not been confirmed, and existing statistics do not reflect whether alien spouses are asylum seekers.
"When reception centers were established around the country, many volunteered to help. Romatic interactions may have occurred during the meetings," Elli Heikkilä ventured.
According to Rummakko, the current laws basically force non-Europeans to marry Finns, provided that they want to continue their relationships.
"The current provisions are such that a person from outside the EU may have problems obtaining a residence permit. If you want to continue living with a Finn and apply for a residence permit on these grounds, you are forced to marry in practice, Rummakko explained.
Each year, up to 300 cases of fake marriages are revealed in Finland owing to contradictions in personal information, lack of a common language or previous contact between the spouses. According to Migri's Arja Kallakivi, it is not uncommon for foreign applicants to "marry" Finns after having received a negative decision.
"It is particularly evident in couples with vast cultural differences in culture, featuring, say, Turks or Moroccans. Parents should be able to discuss their values, such as the role of religion in the family or the religion in which children are raised, as well as about women's employment and equality issues," Elli Heikkilä said.
At present, there are more than 56,000 Finnish men and women who have foreign-born spouses or concubines, many of them Russian, Thai, Estonian or British.
Nevertheless, the number of Finnish-Iraqi marriages remains rather small compared to the number of asylum seekers. Over the past two years, over 20,000 Iraqi refugees sought asylum in Finland.
Last week, illegal immigrants and refugees were reportedly dominating Finland's market for prostitution. While its exact extent remains yet to be seen, providing sexual services is reportedly an easy way out of the newcomers' financial difficulties. Earlier, similar reports came from Finland's Nordic peers Sweden and Norway.
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