The Finnish Red Cross opens new reception centres

Damien Fulton Naylor / IFRC
A record-breaking number of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and arrived in Italy. This photo is from April, when over 200 migrants arrived in Sicily.
Image: Damien Fulton Naylor / IFRC

The number of asylum seekers coming to Finland has grown to reach a new record. The number of underage asylum seekers requiring special protection has also increased significantly. The Finnish Red Cross will open new reception centres in collaboration with the Finnish Immigration Service.

The Ruukki reception centre, which closed at the end of last year, will reopen in August. The centre, located in the municipality of Siikajoki in the Oulu region, will have space for approximately 150 asylum seekers. There will be 12 members of staff, most of whom have worked at the centre in the past.

“The goal is to let the first clients into the centre at the end of August. The facilities are still being renovated, so we won’t be able to accommodate the maximum number of 150 asylum seekers immediately,” estimates the future manager of the Ruukki reception centre, Sirpa Kallio. Kallio also managed the centre until October 2014, when the centre was closed.

In addition to this, the Turku reception centre of the Red Cross reopened its Punkalaidun branch last week. The Punkalaidun branch, located in the Tampere region, was closed at the end of 2014, similarly to the Ruukki reception centre. The order to reopen the branch was given at the end of June.

In addition to this, the Finnish Red Cross is currently negotiating for a new unit to be opened in Pöykkölä in Rovaniemi intended for underage asylum seekers, and for a brand new reception centre to be opened in Tornio.

“There is a great need for new reception centres,” states Ari Haaranen, the manager of the Rovaniemi reception centre maintained by the Red Cross.

“The number of asylum seekers has increased so much that the extension resources of all existing centres have been used up. Now, we need quick reactions, and municipalities aren’t capable of that,” Haaranen says.

By last Sunday, a little over 3 200 asylum seekers had arrived in Finland. According to the Finnish Immigration Service, 250 new asylum seekers arrive every week. The Immigration Service has estimated that as many as 8 000 new asylum seekers will arrive in Finland by the end of the year. Last year 3 651 people sought asylum in Finland.

People are driven out by wars and conflicts, first and foremost. Most asylum seekers come to Finland from Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

The Finnish Immigration Service, with authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior, always makes the decision on opening reception centres, after which the Finnish Red Cross prepares the opening together with the respective municipality.

The number of underage asylum seekers has increased significantly

According to Haaranen, the number of underage asylum seekers has also increased significantly, which is why a new unit for children and young people is being planned in Rovaniemi. Asylum seekers who are 16 years of age or older will be placed in a support home unit and those under 16 will be placed in group homes. “Underage asylum seekers are a particularly vulnerable group that requires special attention,” Haaranen points out.

“They’ve been separated from their families and they’re often uncertain about the state of their loved ones. They might not even know which country their family is in, because smugglers may put the members of a family on separate ships.”

The new reception centre planned for Tornio will house the asylum seekers arriving to Finland via Haparanda, since all other centres in Northern Finland are already full. The aim is to open the centre during September, and the unit intended for underage asylum seekers will only be opened after this.

The Finnish Red Cross supports the authorities

The Finnish Red Cross supports the authorities in the reception of asylum seekers and refugees, and establishes reception centres upon the Finnish Immigration Service’s request. The state pays for the expenses of reception and is responsible for processing applications for asylum.

Reception centres maintained by the Finnish Red Cross are currently located in Rovaniemi, Kemi, Mänttä-Vilppula, Kristiinankaupunki, and Turku. In addition to the recently opened Punkalaidun branch and the Ruukki reception centre to be opened to August, the Finnish Red Cross is currently negotiating to opening new reception centres in five different localities.

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, there were 960 000 people in need of international protection in the world at the start of 2015, but only 80 000 annual resettlement places.