Unaccompanied children from Greek refugee camps heading to Finland in July

The first group of 25 children was supposed to arrive in the spring, but the date was shifted due to the coronavirus epidemic.

File picture of Migri logo on glass door / Credit: Migri Twitter

A group of 25 unaccompanied children will be relocated to Finland next month from refugee camps in Greece, the first of around 175 children the government agreed to take earlier this year from Mediterranean countries, but whose arrival has been delayed by the coronavirus epidemic.

Around 100 children in total will be brought to Finland from Greek refugee camps, mostly unaccompanied minors but single parents with children could also be relocated. Later, other children will come from refugee camps in Cyprus and Malta and all new arrivals will have health checks, including coronavirus tests, and an interview to assess their needs as vulnerable asylum seekers.

“Greece, the European Commission and the European Asylum Support Office are working hard to get all unaccompanied minors moved from the Greek islands to the mainland and to prepare the children for relocation as soon as possible” says Monna Airiainen from the Finnish Immigration Service Migri.

Why are the children coming to Finland?

The Government decided in February to accept 175 asylum seekers who are currently stuck in refugee camps in Mediterranean countries.

The main criteria is that the children must be “from especially dangerous countries and likely to be in need of international protection.”

Finnish authorities don’t themselves decide who will come, but rather the authorities in Greece, Cyprus and Malta assess the criteria laid down by Finland and then choose the candidates.

“All of the asylum seekers whom Finland receives from the Mediterranean region will have vulnerable status” says Airiainen.

Most of the children in refugee camps on Greek islands are over 14-years old, and less than 10% of them are girls. Migri’s decisions on who gets asylum will be based on prioritising the youngest children first, or those with special needs.

What happens when they arrive in Finland?

All the new arrivals will be quarantined for 14 days in case of coronavirus, and anyone with symptoms will be tested.

The children, and possibly also single parents, will eventually be staying in group homes or units specially designed to meet the needs of young people. These units are supposed to give the children a safe environment to live in.

The asylum process will only begin once the children arrive in Finland and they’ll be processed in the same way as other asylum seekers – except that they won’t be returned to the country where they first arrived in the EU to make their claim, under these special circumstances.