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

by , under Enrique

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. 


  1. JusticeDemon

    There are always two aspects to any official licensing system: conditions of eligibility and administrative obstacles. International instruments and even national laws tend to ignore administrative obstacles, but these have a direct impact on access to rights.

    Thus, everyone advises K. that he is entitled to enter the Castle, and that the government has earned great praise for delivering a solemn undertaking to this effect. It is only when actually attempting to enter the Castle that K. discovers how difficult this is in practice. The gates are open between 10 a.m. and noon, but the bus arrives every day at 1 p.m. An admission ticket must be obtained in advance by presenting proof of identity and paying a large fee. This ticket takes an average of between three and five days to issue, it must be collected in person, and if the wrong form of identity was used, then the ticket cannot be issued and the fee is lost. And so on.

    The key question is: at what point do the administrative obstacles become so great that we can fairly conclude that the guaranteed right has been denied?

    The Finnish Foreign and Interior Ministries perfected this Kafkaesque scenario in organising the practical immigration procedures for thousands of Ingrian returnees from the former USSR in the 1990s.

    • JusticeDemon


      If Finnish driving licences were only issued to applicants in person from a small office open between 10.00 and 11.30 a.m. in the backwaters of the Åland archipelago and accessible only by a water bus from Mariehamn docking at 12.30 p.m. every day, then we could safely predict that very few Finns would be able to get a driving licence.

      Some bozo like you might then even claim that this showed how the Finns lack the competence to drive modern vehicles.

    • gloaming

      If you cannot afford the fees and the traveling costs, you most certainly cannot afford life here. Thus, your life is somewhere else. Especially when you lack the necessary education and professional etc. skills.

      It seems Mark deleted my comment on the mission statement of this blog (i.e. promotion of south-to-north migration from the Third World to Europe). Nice job, Mark.

      Please import all the old comments from the previous platform, a lot of them are still missing.

    • gloaming

      Oh my bad, the comments are just ordered from the latest to the first, not the way they used to be.

    • Mark

      I hadn’t realised that comments were enabled on that page. That page is not a place for you to advertise your personal views, seeing as you are not the owner or editor of this blog, Gloaming – but go ahead and feel entitled anyway!

  2. gloaming

    Mark, there is a difference between a blog post and a comment to a post.

    “Advertise my personal views”? Well, I suppose you represent ‘The Truth’, then. What was it called in the old days, oh yes, ‘Pravda’

    I would say the readers of the blog, especially the random ones, have a right (yes, they have A RIGHT) to be aware of the mission of this blog.

    Do you disagree with my description of the mission statement? If you do, then in what way?

    • Mark

      Don’t be so sensitive. You can express you views anywhere, but the About Migrant Tales shows up as a post because it had to be done as a post and not a page to make it fit the menu. It’s just technical stuff. I think you can understand if you really want to 🙂

      I cannot be arsed discussing the mission statement. Too busy right now and you are just way off base with your comments anyhow!

  3. erkkiveijo

    If they have atleast 3ke money to send first one in here they do have money for rest.
    And anyway most of their applications are fraud.

    • Enrique

      –And anyway most of their applications are fraud.

      One thing that amazes me erkkiveijo is how people as yourself have exclusive insight to things that the media and public don’t.

      Welcome to Migrant Tales.

    • Justice Demon

      And anyway most of their applications are fraud.

      If this were really true, then the applications could be turned down on these grounds and there would be no need to erect artificial procedural obstacles to separate mother from child and brother from sister.

      But let’s humour you for a few days only, erkkiveijo. What is your evidence for this claim?

      My bet is that the only “evidence” you have is your own racist prejudice.