Finnish police are struggling to deal with the number of asylum applications currently in the system, and their union say they need more resources to process all the claims. Asylum applications are currently running at levels eight times greater than last year.


asylum seekers


Finland needs to employ more police to deal with all the asylum claims in the system, according to the Finnish Police Federation. Federation chair Yrjö Suhonen says that police are in danger of neglecting their basic duties as resources are transferred to deal with asylum claims.


«All this manpower that has to be focused on dealing with new arrivals, is taken from normal police work,» said the union boss. «Ordinary citizens suffer if their problems can’t be dealt with.»


Up to the end of September some 16,000 asylum claims were made in Finland. That’s an increase of 800 percent on the same period in 2014. In Helsinki around 2,800 claims had been made up to the end of September. That’s the same number as in the whole of the country in 2014.


Lapland focus


The biggest increase is focused on the Lapland police district, which has seen some 4,600 claims so far this year. That is a quarter of this year’s claims, and the increase is around a hundredfold compared to last year.


The surge in the north is down to people from crisis countries using the Tornio route to cross from Sweden to Finland at the very end of a long journey to Europe. Many of the new arrivals are from Iraq and Somalia, and made Finland their destination as the country has treated Iraqi and Somali claims more favourably than neighbouring Sweden—an interpretation that isset to end after a review by the Immigration authorities.


Decisions on claims from those two countries are currently suspended pending the conclusion of the review of asylum guidance. That review has been the focus of protests by Iraqi asylum seekers.


Police departments have been granted permission to hire more than a hundred extra officers on temporary contracts to deal with the claims. National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen says that so far the extra work has been handled by  officers doing overtime, but if asylum applications reach 50,000 this year, as expected, he says even more resources will be needed.


Migri makes decisions


Asylum claims are handled in collaboration with the Immigration Service (Migri). Police are responsible for registration of asylum seekers and an initial interview in which the identity of the applicant and their route to Finland is determined. The case then passes to Migri, which conducts a more in-depth interview and makes a decision to grant or deny residence.


If the decision is negative, the police are responsible for removing the person from Finland. The whole process is demanding work, according to Suhonen, and cannot be rushed.


«There should be sufficient time and level, it cannot be a conveyor belt,» said Suhonen, who remains annoyed about the government’s plans to cut the number of police officers next year.


Neither is he overjoyed about the National Police Board’s plans to hire civilians to assist with claim processing.


«We shouldn’t plug gaps in an emergency situation by lowering our demands,» said Suhonen.