After an interval of several years, the number of persons seeking asylum in Finland has turned upwards once again.
Over the period from January through April a total of 521 asylum applicants arrived in the country, which is one-fifth more than a year ago.
In terms of the number of asylum-seekers per nationality, the most substantial growth was experienced in the number of applications from Somalis, Iraqis, and Nigerians.
The Finnish Immigration Service (formerly the Directorate of Immigration) estimates that the growth is partly attributable to Sweden's tightened refugee policy line concerning Iraqi citizens.
Last year Sweden started to interpret the conditions in Iraq in such a way that they do not meet the criteria of an armed conflict. Hence, a number of Iraqi asylum-seekers have been rejected in Sweden, as they have not been seen to be in need of immediate protection.
Esko Repo, the head of the asylum unit of the Finnish Immigration Service, says that it is also possible that the circumstances in Iraq have weakened, resulting in growing numbers of asylum applicants.
Last year, the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Finland was 1,434, while in 2004 the corresponding figure was 3,861.
The number of unaccompanied minor asylum-seekers has also shown a substantial growth over the first months of the current year.
The number of such asylum-seekers was 71 in January alone, while the figure for the entire year in 2007 was 98.
Repo believes that this year the figure will climb to around 200. Since the beginning of the current millennium, the number of unaccompanied underage asylum-seekers has exceeded 200 only once - in 2005.
Source: HS (English)
See also: Finland: Iranian Kurd hiding in church to be granted a residence permit