Helsinki: Somali family reunification challenging social services
The first Somali refugees arrived in Finland 20 years ago. Thus far in 2009, the figure for Somali asylum-seekers has been more than 1,000, of whom the number of minor asylum-seekers without a parent or guardian is nearly 200.
In the next few years, Finland is expected to receive thousands of Somalis, as the number of asylum-seekers has turned upwards.
Almost every applicant who has been granted asylum will apply for family reunification.
The increase in the number of new arrivals will challenge the social services, as Somali families are often large. Moreover, they seem to have grown further in recent years, as many families have several foster-children.
Over the past couple of years, Finland has received a couple of thousand asylum-seekers from Somalia alone. They have now begun to be granted residence permits, along with which they are entitled to apply for family reunification.
”We have examples of families with even 10 to 15 members”, says Kerstin Söderlund from the Immigration Unit of Helsinki’s Social Services Department.
In the course of the past two years, a total of some 300 Somali family members have arrived in Helsinki alone.
However, this number is small compared with those around 2,000 persons who are queuing for entry into Finland in various parts of the world.
Moreover, immigrants from all over Finland are also flowing to Helsinki.
Some families with more than 15 members have been seen queueing for council housing in the capital city.
One of those who have been long in a housing queue is Amina, who was an asylum-seeking child when she came to Finland - unaccompanied - four years ago.
When she was eventually granted asylum, she was also entitled to apply for family reunification. Eight months ago, her family of 15 members arrived in Finland from a Somali refugee camp in Addis Abeba.
Now the entire family - three generations - is living in a small two-room flat in Helsinki. There is no room for beds, which is why they have to put down a number of mattresses on the floor in the evening.
”This is a major problem”, says Annika Forsander, the Director of Immigration Affairs in Helsinki.
Helsinki is poorly prepared for the situation. Only a week ago, the City Board ordered the officials in charge of town planning and residential areas to draw up an action plan relating to immigrants’ housing conditions.
In addition, research-based information is required. Even the data acquisition process is beginning at the last moment, as the situation is already turning from bad to worse, something which the city’s officials freely admit.
It has been known already for a couple of years that the upcoming family reunifications could multiply the number of arriving immigrants.
Source: HS (English)