Expedited Asylum Processing: A Significant Reform at Finland’s Eastern Border
The Ministry of Interior of Finland is working diligently towards a significant reform aimed at speeding up the processing of asylum applications at the eastern border. The primary objective of this reform is to promptly reject applicants who do not appear to necessitate protection at a preliminary assessment. Unlike the existing legislation, this new system will limit the free movement of asylum seekers within the country during the evaluation period.
Specialized Unit for Rapid Processing
As part of the reform, the Finnish Immigration Service is expected to establish a specialized unit. This unit will be responsible for determining whether applications qualify for processing through an accelerated procedure. The European Union directives allow such accelerated procedures at external borders, also including the right to keep asylum seekers in closed reception centers during the processing period.
Joutseno, a town situated just 14 kilometers from the Nuijamaa border crossing, is a potential site for the new system. The town has the requisite facilities, including a closed detention unit. It is important to note that the reform applies only to applicants at the EU’s external borders. Individuals entering through countries like Sweden or Estonia will not be impacted by this change. The decision to establish a unit for rapid processing of asylum applications at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport is still under consideration.
Addressing Hybrid Warfare Threats
One of the driving factors behind this reform is the potential threat of hybrid warfare from Russia, which could involve sending a large number of asylum seekers across the border simultaneously. The new system is designed to prevent asylum seekers from moving freely within Finland during their application period. This primarily applies to individuals who, at the initial assessment, do not appear to have grounds for asylum. These individuals will be held for a maximum of four weeks in a specialized reception center with limited freedom of movement.
Under the current legislation, asylum seekers have the right to move freely from reception centers unless they are in closed detention. Individuals can be placed in closed detention if they are awaiting expulsion, their identity is unclear, or they have a criminal background. Whether freedom of movement will be completely restricted at the new reception center is yet to be determined.
Accelerating Process for Low-Risk Countries
The Ministry of Interior aims to accelerate the process for countries that seldom have individuals requiring protection. If an individual appears to have grounds for asylum upon initial assessment, a standard asylum process that could potentially take longer than four weeks is initiated. Those undergoing a rapid process will still have the opportunity to appeal the decision in the usual manner.
The legislation proposal for this significant reform is set to be submitted to the Parliament in spring 2024. The reform, once implemented, is expected to streamline the asylum application process, ensuring a quick and efficient evaluation of the applicants.
Subscribe to BNN Breaking
Sign up for our daily newsletter covering global breaking news around the world.