Authorities on the autonomous islands, which has strict residency restrictions, say they do not intend to take any asylum seekers despite record numbers arriving in Finland this year.


The harbour at Mariehamn, capital of the Åland islands
The harbour at Mariehamn, capital of the Åland islands


Authorities on the Åland isles say the self-governing province does not intend to house any of the record number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland.


The Interior Ministry estimates that 50,000 people could apply for asylum in Finland this year. However, a place will not be found for them on the semi-autonomous archipelago of Åland, off the coast of Turku.


Outside our jurisdiction


The small community’s chief of police, Maria Hoikkala, says the reason is simple. “Things relating to foreigners are for the mainland to deal with. Åland is self-governing, so this is outside our jurisdiction.”


With less than 30,000 residents, Åland is Finland’s smallest regional administration, and is also the only one that is uniquely Swedish-speaking. The outcrop of islands has tight restrictions on who can own property or run a business, with immigrants having to live there for five years before gaining either of those rights.


Hoikkala says that accepting asylum seekers would be difficult as the islands do not have their own immigration authority.


”Even if we wanted to open a reception centre here, we couldn’t do it without the presence of an official from the mainland,“ she said.


First boat out


Hoikkala insists, however, that the community won’t completely turn its back on anyone seeking asylum.


”If someone comes here and says they want to claim asylum, then of course we’ll arrange emergency accommodation for them, and we’ll carry out the preliminary stages of the asylum process,” she said.


”But we will send all asylum seekers on the first possible boat to Turku to be looked after at the Red Cross reception centre,” she added.