Separation between central and local government hinders migrant integration
24 nov 2019
The Finnish system for the reception of asylum seekers is highly organised and could function well. But while the system is based on short processing times, asylum seekers may currently have to wait several years for a decision on their application, says migration researcher Östen Wahlbeck.
“The system would work well if decisions on asylum applications were quick. The whole system is based on a short reception stage, after which the people whose applications are accepted are integrated into their new home municipality. But unfortunately asylum decisions take a long time and integration suffers because people have to wait so long to be admitted to integration programmes,” says Östen Wahlbeck.
Statistics from the Finnish Immigration Service speak for themselves: in 2015 asylum seekers had to wait an average of 124 days for their first decision. The next year the average wait had increased to 270 days, and in 2017 to 373 days.
What is, following bureaucratic logic, a clear and well-functioning division into reception and integration has, in practice, led to several problems. The system is rigid, and many rules appear almost counterproductive in terms of integration.
“It’s clear that many asylum seekers fall between the cracks, living in uncertainty for an extended period of time and being unable to plan their lives.”
Unprepared for mass immigration
Östen Wahlbeck, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Swedish School of Social Science, participated in the European CEASEVAL research consortium, which evaluated the European asylum system. The researchers explored how the system worked in practice, comparing experiences from 12 countries.
The research project was established in the aftermath of the refugee crisis of 2015, when it became apparent that the European reception policies and European cooperation on asylum issues were flawed. Wahlbeck’s role in the project was to examine the situation in Finland.
The Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is a set of legislation and rules on the reception of asylum seekers. Efforts to establish this legal framework began in 1999, and the regulations have gradually been expanded and made more ambitious – some say too ambitious. According to Wahlbeck, countries such as Greece and Italy had no chance of meeting the requirements of the Reception Conditions Directive when tens of thousands of migrants arrived on their shores.