Finnish government to ease (alas) strict family reunification law

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The Finnish government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin plans to overturn the country tightened immigration law and family reunification requirements, which came into force a year later after a record 32,477 asylum seekers came to Finland in 2015. The then government of Center Party Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party was a partner together with the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), tightened the immigration law that, among other matters, made family reunification harder.

If passed, the new law will come into force in 2022.

While some may claim that there is nothing dramatic about doing away with tightened rules that came into force in 2016, there was already a tightening of the law in 2011.

Isn’t it a surprise that Helsingin Sanomat did not publish a person of color to go with the story? The Finnish media usually publish such pictures when migrants or asylum seekers are the topic. Read the full story here.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the main factors behind these changes was the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS) party’s growing popularity in the polls and its historic election victory in April 2011.

Rules that came into force ten years ago already made family reunification ever-complicated and costly. One significant change in the 2011 law is that family members must now apply in their home country or at the nearest Finnish embassy. As a general rule, the minimum that a three-member family must make monthly to bring their loved ones is 2,880 euros, according to the Refugee Advice Center.

Considering that the closest Finnish embassy may be far away, the cost of travel, lodging, food, and other expenses like interpretation services must be paid by the person seeking to bring his family to Finland.

Thus the 2016 tightening of family reunification guidelines were even worse than in 2011. For example, an applicant was required to make 2,600 euros after taxes to bring his wife and two children to the country.

About 20% of Finns makes such an amount monthly.

While we should applaud the government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin for doing away with some of these unjust laws, the tightening of such laws undermined the security of asylum seekers and breached human rights.

One of the biggest failures was doing away with granting residence permits on humanitarian grounds, which forced a spike in the number of undocumented migrants.

Before scrapping residence permits on humanitarian grounds, an asylum seeker who got an unfavorable decision from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), was granted a temporary residence permit if there wasn’t a repatriation agreement between Finland and the person’s country.

One surprise politicians who voted (law 2/2016) in favor of scrapping such residence permits was Social Democrat MP Nasima Razmyar.

Finland still has a long way before its immigration law is humane and does not allow families and minors from being detained indefinitely.

In February, the deadline for appeals was lowered back to 30 from 21 days and after a second rejection to 14 days.

Moreover, free legal representation was restricted before only to applicants on exceptional grounds.

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