Up to 15,000 of the over 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Finland at the height of the migrant crisis could have wound up as undocumented immigrants at some point in the asylum procedure, researchers Talvikki Ahonen and Annastiina Kallius have claimed, according to the newspaper Uusi Suomi reported.
Ahonen and Kallius also estimate that thousands of people may already have left the country totally unbeknownst to the authorities. According to their estimate, the number of undocumented residents, including rejected asylum seekers who despite the efforts of authorities remain in the country and are to be forcefully removed, still hovers at around several thousand.
"Given the lack of precise data on departures and the non-completion of the asylum procedure, we can only offer an estimate that 4,000-8,000 of the asylum seekers who arrived in 2015 could still be staying in Finland as undocumented people", the report said.
A previous estimate made in the University of Turku report "The Undocumented in Finland" put their number at 3,000 to 4,000.
Last week, national broadcaster Yle admitted that the spike in undocumented migrants "gone underground" caught the authorities and the government unawares.
Ahonen and Kallius ascribed the blame for the "production" of undocumented immigrants to a number of institutions, including the European Commission, the Finnish government, the Finnish Parliament, and the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). Last but not least, municipalities, responsible ministries and the police, who failed to properly execute deportation decisions are also to blame, the researchers said.
"Finland's stricter aliens legislation and its interpretation have effectively contributed to the growth of the group of undocumented people — that is, people residing in the country without a residence permit", the researchers wrote in their book about asylum seekers and refugees in Finland published earlier this year by Finland's Migration Institute.
They also contended that the role of the government in the rise in undocumented migrants has not only been insufficiently scrutinised, but also downplayed.
The Finnish government, Ahonen and Kallius stated, has sought to attribute the phenomenon to undocumented immigrants themselves, even though it they claimed, "is produced and managed by Finland's societal structures and border policy".
"For example, the list of countries of origin that were considered safe was extended, regulations governing the family reunifications of refugees toughened and the appeal period of unsuccessful asylum seekers shortened", Ahonen and Kallius wrote.
Ahonen is a social policy researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, whereas Kallius is a doctoral researcher of sociology and social anthropology at the University of Helsinki.