Sharp Drop In Number Of Asylum Seekers

Drop in arrivals coincides with rise in approvals - as more asylum seekers claim they've converted to Christianity and would be persecuted if they were sent back to their home countries.

Asylum reception Centre in Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

The number of people arriving in Finland and making a first asylum claim fell sharply in 2017 compared with the previous year.

According to the Finnish Immigration Service Migri, there were 2139 first time asylum applicants in 2017, down from 4005 in 2016.

Around 1800 people made a second asylum application to Finnish officials, and another 1062 cases were transferred to Finland from Italy and Greece under an EU scheme.

About 40% of people who got asylum decisions from officials were allowed to stay here, that’s up from 27% the year before.

Migri says one of the reasons for the increase in approvals is the surge in asylum seekers presenting new grounds to have their application approved. The most common new ground was converting to Christianity, and claiming they would be at risk of persecution in their own country due to their new religion.

Before 2015 the number of asylum applicants in Finland was relatively stable between 3000 and 4000 people each year.

But the ongoing war in Syria sparked a massive humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced from their homes due to fighting.

The United Nations estimates six million people are displaced within Syria, while another five million are refugees outside the country. While many have been housed in camps in neighbouring countries like Jordan and Turkey, many people decided to make the perilous trip to Europe to find safety.

Finland had a surge in asylum applications during 2015, with up to 32,500 people arriving in the country from Syria, Iraq and other places with ongoing conflict, humanitarian crises or economic deprivation.

The latest figures for arrivals show a drop back down to levels more likely seen before 2015.