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MIGRATION IN FINLAND  

The first wave of immigrants - Swedes, Russians, Central Europeans, Tatars, and Jews - came to the capital Helsinki and other major towns from the end of the 19th century through the 1930s for economic reasons.

Three statistics indicate the relatively strong impact of today's immigration. At first, the number of legal foreigners in Finland without citizenship has rosen between 1990 and 2003, from 26,300 to 107,100. Second, the number of Finnish citizens and residents of migrant background has doubled between 1991 and 2003, from 77,000 to 159,000, which is three percent of the total population of Finland.  At third, the number of residents, whose first language is not Finnish has tripled between 1992 and 2004, from 43,000 to 128,000.

Today, Finland receives annually about 2,000-3,000 asylum applications and in addition over 10,000 applications for work- and residence permits. Each year, between 2,000 and 3,000 people receive Finnish citizenship.

One reason for the recent immigration increase is the collapse of the Soviet Union, which opened the borders of Russia and made for the Russians possible to move abroad.
 
In April 1990, the former president of Finland, Mauno Koivisto announced that all Finns living in the former Soviet Union could be considered remignatns to Finland.  About 30,000 Ingrians who fulfilled the heredity criteria have  "returned" to Finland.

In recent years, Finland has admitted tens of thousands of labor immigrants who have first secured job contracts with Finnish employers. Generally, there is no system or recruitment plan regarding future labor immigration. 

Registered students are now subject to a lighter process, and basically need only a temporary residence permit. Seasonal agricultural workers are entitled to work without a residence permit if the work period is less than three months.

The EU has had some influence on the Finnish immigration system, particularly through the Dublin structure, whereby an asylum seeker coming from an extra-EU country of origin but through an EU country may be, under certain conditions, returned to this EU country.

Asylum-seeker reception and post-asylum integration policy as well as enforcement mainly fall under the mandate of the Ministry of Labor, which also has a significant say in refugee quotas. Other asylum-related policy decisions generally fall under the Foreigners' Department of the Ministry of the Interior, while asylum interviews and application decisions are the responsibility of that ministry's Directorate of Immigration. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local police have a smaller role in executive operations.

In contrast to other EU countries, asylum applications to Finland are still on the rise. Finland currently receives 1,000 to 3,000 asylum seekers annually. There are three main causes for this trend: the increased knowledge about Finland as a stable and socially developed country with few incidents of racial violence, a lack of a well-established and hostile far right, and further asylum entry restrictions in other Western countries.

Since 1990, Finland has received 3,000 Somalis fleeing civil war, thousands of Kurds from the Middle East, and thousands of refugees fleeing the Balkan conflicts. Because of the large living-standard gap across the Fenno-Russian border and the ongoing human rights situation in the Caucasus, Finland received over 3,400 asylum applications from the former Soviet Union and Russia.

Most applications have come from people in the Caucasus area, the Russian Federation, Belarus, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, Somalia, and Nigeria.

However, residence permits have been considered and frequently granted in cases where detailed, updated, country-of-origin information and careful, individual judicial inspection of the case has revealed an obvious and immediate need of protection. Therefore, while 20 to 30 percent of the people who submit applications are allowed to stay, few receive a residence permit because they are refugees as defined by the Geneva Convention. The residence permits that asylum applicants receive often allow the person to permanently settle in Finland.
 
In addition to approving asylum applications, the government sets annual refugee quotas that determine the ultimate number of forced migration-related entries to Finland per year. The quota, which varies between 500 and 750 refugees, is typically to protect people from the Middle East's most conflict-torn areas. The government typically fulfills the quota through selecting vulnerable refugees from the region's refugee camps.

Other groups who have benefited from the refugee quota include the Chilean refugees of the early 1970s and Vietnamese "boat refugees" from Asian refugee camps in the 1980s. Also, special governmental measures have facilitated the entries of Bosnian refugees during the Bosnian war and Albanians during the Kosovo war.

Citizenship matters per se have not excited negative political passions in Finland. Rather, application process delays that have been the subject of sometimes well-founded criticism. The  target  is to reduce the time for a citizenship decision to less than 1.5 years.  

Generally, the citizenship legislation has been modernized, and the conditions for achieving citizenship are in line with other European countries. A foreigner may apply for Finnish citizenship if he or she is 18 years old, has no criminal record, is in satisfactory economic standing, and has a satisfactory command of either Finnish or Swedish, the official languages.

A sufficient residence in Finland is also required. A former Finnish citizen or a Nordic citizen has to live in Finland uninterrupted for two years, whereas others must live in Finland for eight consecutive years, or a total of eight years in several periods after age 15 with the last two years being consecutive. For refugees with a residence permit, stateless persons, and persons with Finnish spouses, the periods are shorter: four consecutive years of residence in Finland, or six years after the age of 15, the last two years uninterrupted. Spouses need to prove they live together and have done so for the past three years.

Like many countries, Finland's population is growing older, with the bulk of the post-World War II baby-boomers retiring in the coming five to seven years. Over 500,000 people will retire, population decline will inevitably occur after 2025. The speed of the decline may be slowed by more immigration.

With the government granting several thousand long-term residence permits and naturalizing 2,000 to 3,000 people each year, many well-integrated, skilled immigrants could compensate for possible future labor shortages.

 
The foreign citizens in Finland

Country of

 the citizenhip

2008

%

Change

/year, %

2009

%

Change

/year, %, %

Russia

26 909

18,8

2,7

28 210

18,1

4,8

Estonia

22 604

15,8

13,0

25 510

16,4

12,9

Sweden

8 439

5,9

1,1

8 506

5,5

0,8

Somalia

4 919

3,4

1,4

5 570

3,6

13,2

China

4 620

3,2

16,1

5 180

3,3

12,1

Thailand

3 932

2,7

13,3

4 497

2,9

14,4

Irac

3 238

2,3

6,7

3 978

2,6

22,9

Turkey

3 429

2,4

7,8

3 809

2,4

11,1

Germany

3 502

2,4

5,5

3 628

2,3

3,6

Great Britan

3 213

2,2

2,2

3 333

2,1

3,7

Other

58 451

40,8

9,9

63 484

40,8

8,6

All

143 256

100

7,9

155 705

100

8,7

 

Foreigners who have received the citizenship of Finland1)

The former citizenship

2006

2007

2008

2009

Russia

1 399

1 665

2 211

1 026

Somalia

445

464

595

290

Irac

405

443

379

207

Afganistan

101

102

279

186

Iran

213

218

329

180

Estonia

176

182

262

166

Former Serbia and Montenegro

248

232

324

154

Sweden

178

163

274

126

Turkey

110

102

195

94

Bosnia and Hertsegovina

81

82

84

56

Other

1 077

1 171

1 750

928

All

4 433

4 824

6 682

3 413

 

 

Asylum seekers and refugees

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Asylum seekers

3 170

1 651

3 443

3 221

3 861

3 574

2 324

1 505

4 035

5 988

Refugees  1973–   

18 835

20 692

22 250

23 452

25 114

26 615

27 757

29 550

 31 769

34 380