A woman wearing a Red Cross volunteer vest guiding an elderly immigrant woman and child. The elderly woman is hugging the volunteer.

Help for immigrants

Photo: Suvi Elo / Suomen Punainen Risti

The Finnish Red Cross helps vulnerable immigrants, such as asylum seekers, people seeking temporary protection, quota refugees and undocumented immigrants.

The operations of the Red Cross are steered by the organisation’s most important principle: the principle of humanity. We help people in need regardless of their legal or social status.

Many ways to help immigrants

Every person has the right to seek asylum. This right is based e.g. on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The criteria for asylum are defined in law and international agreements to which Finland is committed.

The Finnish Red Cross supports the authorities in receiving asylum seekers. An agreement on the cooperation has been signed between the Finnish Red Cross and the Ministry of the Interior. 

The Finnish Red Cross establishes, maintains and closes reception centres across Finland commissioned by the Finnish Immigration Service. The reception centre operations are funded by the Finnish Immigration Service. These operations do not use funds donated to the Finnish Red Cross, e.g. from the Disaster Relief Fund.

The Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for processing the asylum applications and making decisions.

From 7 March 2022 onwards, Finland started granting temporary protection to help people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

The Red Cross organises reception services for people seeking temporary protection mainly according to the same principle as for asylum seekers. However, from 1 May 2022 onwards, reception centres are able to conclude separate agreements with municipalities for the provision of accommodation and healthcare.

The Finnish Immigration Service is responsible for decisions on temporary protection and the funding of reception activities.

Quota refugees already have a refugee status granted by the UN when they come to Finland. The Finnish government annually defines the refugee quota. The Red Cross is not involved in the selection decisions of quota refugees. 

The Finnish Red Cross agrees with municipalities on the entry arrangements of quota refugees. The organisation’s volunteers meet the refugees at the airport and help them with border formalities and travelling to their home municipality.

Undocumented persons are often in a particularly vulnerable position. They do not have a valid residence permit, which means that they are not covered by normal social security. Due to their status, undocumented immigrants are vulnerable to abuse, human trafficking and criminal activity.

According to section 19 of the Constitution of Finland, “those who cannot obtain the means necessary for a life of dignity have the right to receive indispensable subsistence and care.”

The authorities must provide undocumented immigrants with minimum income, accommodation and essential health services. Public authorities must also safeguard the right of children to go to school and provide accommodation suitable for children and families with children. Everyone residing in Finland has these rights regardless of their legal status.

The Finnish Red Cross aims to make sure that undocumented immigrants’ right to indispensable subsistence and essential services is also realised. We help undocumented immigrants find and access official and third sector services. We also provide discussion support, promote activity and help find solutions.

The Red Cross cooperates with organisations and other entities that help undocumented immigrants, as well as the authorities.

After reception services end

Accommodation for asylum seekers and people granted temporary protection is provided at reception centres during the asylum procedure.

Accommodation at the reception centre continues until the person moves to a municipality or returns to their home country.

By law, reception services are terminated without a separate decision if the asylum seeker does not return to their home country after receiving an enforceable decision and the police inform the reception centre that it is not possible to remove the asylum seeker from the country by official means.

The Red Cross is committed to helping those in need, regardless of their status. We do not ask anyone to return or stay in the country. We inform asylum seekers staying at our reception centres about the end of the reception services. We tell them about the possibility of voluntary return and the support available for it. We also share information on the services that are available to people who stay in Finland as undocumented immigrants.

After the reception services end, the responsibility for helping the asylum seekers lies primarily with the wellbeing services counties. Before a person leaves a reception centre, the personnel at the centre make sure that the person leaving has a place to go. The Red Cross does not abandon anyone.

Read more about aid and the rights of undocumented immigrants

The integration of immigrants is the responsibility of the state and the municipalities, which have their defined assignments. The Finnish Red Cross supports the authorities in cooperation with various networks, organisations and companies.

The Red Cross primarily supports the integration of the most vulnerable immigrants, such as asylum seekers and quota refugees. Asylum seekers who have come to Finland alone as minors and young immigrants who have received residence permits and live in family group homes require special support.

Early integration support significantly helps the immigrant or refugee adapt to Finnish society. The Finnish Red Cross aims to support integration starting from the first day in the country when the motivation to learn the Finnish language and culture is at its height.

Examples of integration support by the Finnish Red Cross: language clubs, household aid, homework help, friend activities, international clubs, competence mapping, work practice periods (TET). 

You are welcome to join our integration support volunteer activities.

Read about the community-sponsored integration project.

The Red Cross help families separated by conflicts, natural disasters and crisis situations around the world. We trace lost relatives and deliver messages where normal mail services or telecommunication links are unavailable due to exceptional circumstances.

The tracing work is led by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world participate in tracing work. The Finnish Red Cross is a part of this worldwide network.

The Finnish Red Cross and several national Red Cross Societies in Europe publish photos of people looking for their missing loved ones, hoping to reunite family members.

More information about our help in finding missing family members

The Finnish Red Cross provides information for quota refugees and residence permit holders living in Finland on the rules of family reunification and how to apply for it. We assist with contacts with the authorities and other organisations in Finland and abroad.

According to the rules of war, states must promote the reunification of family members lost in conflict. Children have the right to their parents and family life.

Every year, the Red Cross helps thousands of families reunite around the world. We work towards reuniting separated families as quickly as possible. Finnish legislation limits the right to family reunification to the nuclear family, i.e. spouse and underage children.

More information about family reunification

Guidance for people residing in Finland with no residence permit
Guidance for people residing in Finland with no residence permit
Become a volunteer in refugee and immigrant work
Become a volunteer in refugee and immigrant work