The long and costly ordeal of family reunification from Somalia to Finland

Ever wondered about the hassle and red tape a Somali resident of Finland must face to bring his family here? Apart from the long two-and-a-half year wait on average, the whole process is especially costly for a person from Somalia, where annual income totals about $600 (471 euros), according to the CIA Factbook.  

There are three ways to be reunited with your loved one in Finland if you live in Somalia: either apply for political asylum in Finland or turn to the Finnish Embassy in Ethiopia or Kenya.

The fastest of the three routes is applying directly for asylum.

Finnish immigration authorities have around 10,000 family reunification applications on file, mostly from Somalis. While the Finnish Immigration Service blames a lack of personnel for the backlog, some believe that this is done on purpose to reduce the number of Somalis seeking to move to Finland.

Family reunification can be a long and costly ordeal if you are a Somali. Administration fees alone charged at the Finnish Embassy in Addis Ababa amount to 415 euros per adult, according to the Finnish interior minsitry. For minors they are a bit cheaper (180 euros).

According to a Somali resident of Finland, the cost of traveling from Mogadishu to Addis Ababa by car is $100 and you’ll need $30 for food. The journey to the Ethiopian capital takes about seven days from Mogadishu.

“Some who apply at the Finnish Embassy in Addis Ababa may wait in the capital for those two-and-half years to get the green light to move to Finland,” the Somali said. “Waiting is expensive. Rent in Addis Ababa for a family of seven can cost about $100/month, or between $300 and $400 if all living expenses are included.”

A two-and-and-half year wait can cost  a family $9,000-$12,000 if you plan to wait it out in the Ethiopian capital.

If you are a minor in Finland and want to bring your parents and four brothers and sisters to live with you here, administration costs alone for your family would amount to a hefty 1,550 euros. To the sum we’d have to include interpretation fees, which amount to about 20 euros/person (450 Ethiopian birrs).

If, by a stroke of luck, the family gets the green light to be reunited with a family member in Finland, they will have to get a travel document issued by the United Nations that costs 120 euros/person, or a total of 720 euros for a family of six in Ethiopia.

Even if Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen said last year that one of the aims of the government is to tighten family reunification rules still further, this isn’t necessary because of cost and the long wait.

Probably one of the problems with the ongoing debate about family reunifications in Finland is that it makes us forget about the tragedy and suffering of people who made it here but  who still live separated from their loved ones.


A family reunification interview request to appear at the Finnish Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This invitation kicks off a long and expensive process for Somali families.