Janne Leskinen, A Combination of Preparedness and People’s Willingness to help - A Perspective on the operative Role of the Finnish Red Cross during the Asylum Seeker Influx of late 2015 and early 2016 in:

Wolfram Hilz, Daniele Saracino (Ed.)

Nordic Perspectives on the European Asylum System, page 111 - 130

The cases of Sweden and Finland

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-3998-4, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6738-3, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828867383-111

Series: Bonner Studien zum globalen Wandel, vol. 23

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
111 8 A Combination of Preparedness and People’s Willingness to help - A Perspective on the operative Role of the Finnish Red Cross during the Asylum Seeker Influx of late 2015 and early 2016 1 Janne Leskinen 1 Preface When the number of asylum seekers entering Finland increased tenfold over a period of a few months in late 2015, one of the most important actors was the Finnish Red Cross (FRC). In its biggest domestic operation since the Second World War, it was involved in various ways and this article tries to tackle the ambitious task of describing the organisation’s efforts in late 2015 and early 2016. The rapid developments are mostly illustrated by charts and numerical data, while formulating a simplified picture of the unique Finnish context. The FRC’s activities during the operation bear great significance. As the organisation’s operation was covered from public funds, the NGO had an official role in the events together with the authorities. In Finnish history, this was the first time people seeking international protection arrived in this scale. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that in Finland the proportional growth regarding the number of asylum seekers was the biggest in Europe. Other countries like Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden have received more asylum seekers but the relative increase has been lower. This article neither tries to provide a deep analysis of the operation, nor the societal atmosphere in Finland, but merely touches upon these topics. The article seeks not to suggest any improvements to the process, to list the shortcomings or classify the lessons learned in this operation because this would require a more thorough study. The aim is rather to give a broad overview of the course of action the FRC and other actors took. As a conclusion, I will make a personal claim why the operation can be considered successful. The article first introduces the Finnish Red Cross, describing the central facts and functions of the organisation. Second, the organisation’s structure is presented. Third, its historical background and the reasons for its significance 1 This contribution is not an official Finnish Red Cross document. All views and analyses presented in the article are the author’s own and do not represent the Finnish Red Cross, unless noted otherwise. 112 in the Finnish context are outlined. Fourth, the operation itself is described. The article concludes with an evaluation of the operation. 2 Introduction to the Finnish Red Cross The Finnish Red Cross (FRC), which was established in 1877 and is a major non-governmental volunteer organisation in Finland. It is a humanitarian assistance organisation, which is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. With its roughly 86.000 members, it includes about 2% of the Finnish population.2 It is one of the largest voluntary organisations in the country and volunteers form the key component of its disaster preparedness. The FRC is also the most significant provider of humanitarian aid from Finland to the world and does a significant amount of the Finnish Development Cooperation Projects. The FRC is the most known non-profit organisation in Finland.3 The organisation also has a wide local network of volunteers organised in roughly 500 local branches all over Finland, which has about 300 municipalities.4 The local branches are organised in 12 districts, which are responsible for the domestic action within their respective area. Approximately half of the members are active volunteers in the movement and around 45.000 Finns actively volunteer for the movement annually.5 Moreover, about 60.000 people contribute financially to the organisation as regular donors. 2 See Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015:5, 20 May 2016 (Internal Sources). 3 See Taloustutkimus Oy: Omnibus, Tuomo Turja, 30 May 2016. T-15625. Suomen Punainen Risti. Tunnettuus ja imago Toukokuu 2016 (Finnish Red Cross – Image and Recognition study), p. 4 (Internal Sources). 4 For example, in Helsinki there are 13 local Branches, whereas many local branches cover several municipalities. 5 Roughly half of the volunteers contribute more than 4 hours annually. To participate in voluntary activities a membership in the organization is not required, thus not all volunteers are members of the movement. 113 Globally, the role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement is based on shared principles and values. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies strategy 2020 guides the work of the national societies, but the strategy is adapted in each country to the national and local contexts which leads to varied activities. For example, in Sweden the local Red Cross does not operate reception units6 for asylum seekers, but is active in reception units operated by others. In Finland, the local Red Cross is involved in society in manifold ways. On the one hand, it is a service provider in many different societal services and on the other hand, it is a voluntary organisation. The activities of the organisation include: emergency assistance in accidents in Finland, first aid groups and first aid training, friend visitor services and support to informal carers, health points and other health promotion, clubs and camps for children and young people, support to immigrants, reception of refugees and reception centres,7 tracing missing family members for migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and for other groups, international disaster response and development cooperation, collections, campaigns and other fundraising, advocacy for people who need help most, blood service, Kontti recycling 6 Reception unit is a generic concept that covers all premises where asylum seekers are accommodated. A reception unit can refer to, for example, reception centres and temporary accommodation units. See Finnish Immigration Service: Glossary, available at: http://www.migri.fi/for_the_media/glossary (13 April 2017). 7 A facility where persons applying for international protection and beneficiaries of temporary protection are accommodated and that provides the reception services for them. Group homes and supported housing units intended for children are also reception centres. See ibid. Figure 1: Districts of the Finnish Red Cross 114 department stores, youth shelters and the coordination of the voluntary rescue service.8 Furthermore, the organisation has plenty of tasks which are part of the official disaster management and disaster preparedness system of the Finnish society. The Finnish government and the FRC for example have agreements according to which the FRC has to provide support to the authorities when needed. The organisation also has plenty of equipment at its disposal suitable for exceptional circumstances. The Finnish Red Cross is an association under public law (238/2000) and its activities are based on the “Act and Decree on the Finnish Red Cross” (811/2005). The patron of the organization is the president of the Finnish Republic Sauli Niinistö. 3 Roles in the Finnish Red Cross The Finnish Red Cross has a three-tiered system of National Administration (NA), below them are districts and under them local branches. They all have distinct roles in the organisation. The NA is based in Helsinki and it has approximately 130 employees. It has three areas of responsibility. First, International Aid, which includes the coordination of disaster relief. The staff that is responsible for these operations are Red Cross-trained delegates. The FRC logistics centre is located in Kalkku near Tampere in Häme District (no.7 in Figure 1). Second, national programmes and campaigns are developed and coordinated by the NA. The international aid branch has full-time staff working with the programmes and operations in Finland and abroad. In addition, a significant trained FRC delegate reserve from which aid workers can be deployed when needed exists there. The domestic functions make the international ones possible. NA plays a key role in supporting the staff of the districts in order for them to implement programmes in their own respective area of responsibility. Finally, the NA provides organisational services such as IT, communications, economy and human resources (HR) to support the districts. The 12 districts are responsible for the national aid and they implement themes, activities, and programmes within their area of responsibility. They offer support for key volunteers and local branches. Districts employ a variating 8 For more see: Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015:5, 20 May 2016 (Internal Sources). 115 number of staff in their offices. They also function in very different environments from the wilds of Lapland to urban Helsinki and Uusimaa District. The reception centres are operated by the districts and employees in reception units are contracted by districts. Local branches are run by volunteers and they are responsible for local aid.9 They execute activities and programmes in their designated area divided by postal codes. The size of the local branches varies from 20-30 to 5.000 members and they have a diverse capacity at their disposal. Some branches have ambulances and disaster relief equipment, well-suited function rooms and a high level of readiness. Some branches focus rather on awareness raising, immigrant integration or first aid. Local branches cooperate with each other and with other organisations. They all have similar responsibilities in their area and they have committed themselves to supporting authorities and to provide aid in their own community. Later in this article, I will present how these three tiers cooperated with each other and with other actors during the refugee influx of 2015 and 2016. 4 Historical context behind the contemporary Finnish Red Cross role in receiving and housing asylum seekers The Finnish Red Cross has been a significant actor within the short modern history of refugee reception in Finland, since the 1970s. The NGO has been receiving resettled (quota) refugees at the airports in cooperation with the authorities since the 1980s when Finland started receiving refugees in significant numbers. The FRC provided the reception service and first care for them. Also, the FRC signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide legal support for refugees in Finland and to represent UNHCR within the country in 1988.10 When the first 100 resettled refugees arrived in 1973 from Chile, the FRC was active in their integration.11 The first refugee reception unit the FRC managed was established in 1979 in Vantaa to house 100 Vietnamese refugees. During the 1980s, the refugee quota brought small numbers of refugees to the country annually, who were distributed directly in to the municipalities. The first real test for the Red Cross activities related to the housing of people seeking 9 Local branches sometimes have employed staff usually either for running projects or to manage daily errands. All branches and districts are their own legal entities and they are independent economic bodies. 10 See Hytönen, Yki, Laakso, Miko & Leikola, Juhani: Because We Are All Human: Finnish Red Cross 1877 - 2002, 2002. 11 See Ibid, p. 174. 116 international protection started in the 1990s. During the years 1990 - 1993, the number of people coming to the country increased tenfold and about 2.000 asylum seekers crossed the Finnish border annually requesting asylum. In 1992, almost 4.000 asylum seekers arrived in the country. The reception centres to house the people were established and maintained by the FRC.12 In 1991, during the peak influx of this era, the FRC had 15 reception centres. In 1994, the number of asylum seekers dropped to less than half the number of the years before. All the reception units services were handed over to the ministry of labour, whereas nowadays they are part of the Ministry of Interior. During that year, the FRC and the ministry signed an agreement, which defined the tasks of the FRC in the Finnish system for humanitarian migration. They are still the same today: running reception units, support in family reunification, support in immigrant integration, cultural work, awareness raising and upkeep of preparedness in the asylum seekers reception to support the authorities in case of a sudden influx of people to the country.13 During an average year after the Cold War, Finland has received roughly 3.000 asylum applications. During the latest unexpected arrival of asylum seekers to Finland in 2008 - 2009 the FRC established 20 reception units, couple of them as emergency response and temporary of nature. In 2008, there were 4.035 asylum applications and in 2009, there were 5.988. In light of these numbers, the scale of the events in 2015/2016 becomes apparent.14 The FRC was well prepared for the developments of late 2015. In February 2013, the FRC-coordinated two-year project “A Contingency Plan for Massive Arrival – Tasks of Organisations”, started in cooperation with relevant stakeholders.15 The aim of the project was to enhance the FRC’s and other preparedness organisations’ readiness, and cooperation with authorities in situations, where a great number of asylum seekers or other group of people 12 Information for the whole chapter, see Ibid, pp. 185-187. 13 See Ibid, pp. 185-187. 14 See Finnish Immigration Service: Statistics, available at: http://tilastot.migri.fi/# decisions?l=en (13 April 2017). 15 “Mava - Järjestöjen tehtävät maahantulovarautumisessa” (translation by the author) was half funded by the European Refugee Fund (Project: ERF 01121A) and the other half was contributed by FRC and other relevant stakeholders. The other actors were: Finnish Immigration Service (MIGRI), Ministry of Interiors Department for Immigration, Regional State Administrative Agencies, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY – centres), The Finnish National Rescue Association - SPEK, Voluntary Rescue Service (VAPEPA) and different NGO’s. 117 needed temporary protection.16 The project also aimed at strengthening the regional readiness systems of authorities. 17 Three goals were set for the project: First, to develop a national preparedness plan for the Finnish Red Cross. Second, to improve the know-how of FRC staff and its volunteers in massive arrival preparedness. Finally, to raise awareness about Massive Arrival Preparedness among the organisations in the sector, to start new cooperation structures and improve know-how of the actors in massive arrival preparedness. The aim of the second year was to focus on regional preparedness structures of the authorities, developing cooperations with NGO’s and to model the cooperation structures. Special attention was directed at organising health services in a situation of mass influx.18 16 Temporary protection may be given to foreign nationals who need international protection and who cannot return safely to their home country or country of permanent residence, because there has been a massive displacement of people in the country or its neighbouring areas as a result of an armed conflict, some other violent situation or an environmental disaster. Providing temporary protection requires that the need for protection may be considered to be of short duration. See Finnish Immigration Service: Glossary, available at: http://www.migri.fi/for_the_media/glossary (13 April 2017). 17 Internal sources from the project Mava - Järjestöjen tehtävät maahantulovarautumisessa. 18 Ibid. 118 Figure 2: The structure of the Finnish preparedness system for massive arrival19 The Structure of Massive Preparedness According to the Number of Arriving individuals. Three levels of Readiness. THE REGULAR PREPAREDNESS OF THE RECEPTION CENTERS: - DAILY CAPACITY OF ACCOMONDATION IN RECEPTION CENTERS: 3 000 PLACES FOR HOUSING - ADDITIONAL CAPACITY OF RECEPTION CENTRES: CA 2 500 -MIGRI’S PREPAREDNESS UNITS CAPACITY AIM: 4 000 THE AGREEMENT OF MIGRI AND FRC TO MAINTAIN READINESS: EMPHASIS OF THE MASSIVE ARRIVAL PREPAREDNESS PROJECT 2013 THE READINESS PLANS OF CENTRES FOR ECONOMICDEVELOPMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE ENVIRONMENT (ELY-KESKUKSET), UNDER THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR EMPHASIS OF THE MASSIVE ARRIVAL PREPAREDNESS PROJECT 2014 AIM: 80 000 PLACES AIM: 10 000 PLACES Aim: capacity of 10 000 Figure 2 illustrates that the everyday preparedness of MIGRI20 and pre-existing units was on a good level, given the average annual number of 3.000 asylum seekers. The fact that existing units were able to offer housing for 2.500 additional newcomers demonstrates good preparedness. With the capacity for 10.000 asylum seekers in the regular preparedness phase, compared to the historical fluctuations in the asylum applications to Finland, it is safe to argue that the preparedness level was good. The plan for the massive arrival preparedness was drafted well before the events of late 2015. As Figure 3 illustrates, the number of asylum seekers to the European Union Member States had started to increase in 2012 and continued to do so in 2013. In hindsight, it seems clear that the timing for updating these types of plans was optimal in the Finnish context. Red Cross staff participated in exercises and training about the topic during summer 2015 right before the amount of arrivals went through a heavy escalation. 19 Ibid. 20 The Finnish Immigration Service (MIGRI), subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, is the agency that processes and decides matters related to immigration, residence, refugee issues, and Finnish nationality. See Finnish Immigration Service: Glossary, available at: http://www.migri.fi/for_the_media/glossary (13 April 2017). 119 Figure 3: Asylum applications (non-EU) in the EU-28 Member States, 2005-15 (¹) (thousands) 21 Figure 4: The Asylum Applications to Finland 1/2015 – 1/201722 21 Source: Eurostat: Asylum applications (non-EU) in the EU-28 Member States, 2005- 15. Fetched, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index. php/File:Asylum_applications_(non-EU)_in_the_EU-28_Member_States,_2005-15_ (%C2%B9)_(thousands)_YB16.png (13 April 2017). 22 Source: Finnish Immigration Service: MIGRI statistics, available at: http://tilastot. migri.fi/#applications/23330?l=en&start=540 (13 April 2017). 120 5 The FRC efforts in 2015 The developments in the second half of 2015 are difficult to simplify descriptively or to frame in a single timeline. The best description of the events is probably given by the Figures 5, 6 and 7 below. In early 2015, FRC had six asylum seekers reception units. Half a year later in February 2016, the FRC was operating 109 reception units. In the following sections, some key developments are examined. The number of active reception units in Finland depends on the number of asylum seekers.23 The expenses of a reception unit are covered by the state, i.e. MIGRI. The number of staff, the services provided for the residents and expenses covered are regulated by the agency.24 For example, a unit for 250 residents requires a staff of 16 - 17 people.25 The FRC units are not usually bigger than this. A unit provides accommodation, financial support and social and health services to its residents.26 Units also offer study and work activities to their residents according to the local possibilities and their own capacity. MIGRI is responsible for processing the applications for asylum. The staff of the reception unit has no role in this process. Units, including both staff and the residents, cooperate widely with the local authorities, schools, healthcare system, municipal services (e.g libraries and sports facilities) and civil society, 23 There are also special units for children who have arrived without a guardian. Group homes accommodate children under 16 years of age who have arrived without a guardian, while supported housing units accommodate children between 16 and 17 years of age. Some reception units are located in apartments and they have centres for services. For more see Finnish Immigration Service: Reception centres, available at: http://www.migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/reception_activities/reception_centers (13 April 2017). 24 See Finnish Immigration Service: Reception Services for Asylum Seekers, available at: http://www.migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/reception_activities/reception_services (13 April 2017); see also Finnish Immigration Service: Roles and responsibilities in the organisation of reception activities in Finland, available at: http://www.migri.fi/ asylum_in_finland/reception_activities/roles_and_responsibilities (13 April 2017). 25 The amount of staff depends on the type of unit. The units for minors are regulated according to the Child Welfare laws of Finland and they have a limitation in size, according to the age of residents. Also the proportional number of staff is much higher than in adult units. See Finnish Immigration Service: The Instructions on the Number of Personnel in a Reception Unit, available at: http://www.migri.fi/ download/62122_LIITE_1_Vastaanottokeskuksen_henkilostomitoitus.pdf?976f0663 22bdd388 (13 April 2017). 26 See Finnish Immigration Service: Reception Services for Asylum Seekers, available at: http://www.migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/reception_activities/reception_services (13 April 2017). 121 and they buy local services from different types of local service providers.27 The Finnish policy on immigration and criteria for asylum are drafted by the Finnish government. MIGRI is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.28 The Finnish Red Cross supports the authorities in the reception of asylum seekers by establishing and maintaining asylum seeker reception units at MIGRI’s request.29 At the reception units, the FRC takes care of the accommodation of the asylum seekers, distributes food and provides services required by law. During the summer of 2015, the amount of asylum seekers entering Finland had already reached a record high and by July 19th , 3.200 asylum seekers had arrived to the country.30 During the summer, the amount of asylum seekers entering Finland increased in such a manner that the FRC received several requests from MIGRI to establish new units. It is evident that this amount of newcomers was already a challenge to the system. By the 22nd of July, at the height of the Finnish holiday season, FRC had already opened units to Ruukki and Punkalaidun. There were plans to reopen some older FRC locations already by then.31 The head of the Rovaniemi reception centre Ari Haaranen stated that: “The amount of Asylum Seekers has risen in such a manner that all the expansion capacity within the existing units has been reached. We need quick reaction capability, which the municipal sector is not capable of.”32 When looking at Figure 5 below, by July 22nd the amount of people entering Finland was still far away from its zenith. At that point the estimates of annual arrivals presented by the authorities and FRC were up to 8.000 individuals.33 A month later, on 25th of August, the estimated number of arriving individuals had risen to 15.000. The FRC was already running eleven units and in Finland 27 E.g. nutrition for residents, security services, renovation and construction, etc. 28 For more see Swedish Immigration Service: About us: http://www.migri.fi/ about_us, available at: http://ww-w.migri.fi/about_us (20 April 2017). 29 For more see Swedish Immigration Service: Roles and responsibilities in the organisation of reception activities in Finland, available at: http://www.migri.fi/ asylum_in_finland/reception_activities/roles_and_responsibilities (20 April 2017). 30 See Finnish Red Cross: Press release: Finnish Red Cross is opening new reception centres, 22 July 2015, available at: https://www.punainenristi.fi/uu-tiset/2015- 0722/punainen-risti-avaa-uusia-vastaanottokeskuksia (20 April 2017). 31 At the time negotiations to open five new locations were taking place. See Ibid. 32 Ibid. Mr. Haaranen was also the coordinator for the A Contingency Plan for Massive Arrival - Tasks of Organizations. 33 See Ibid. 122 the total was 25.34 As Figure 5 clearly illustrates, this was still far from the highpoint of arrivals. Although the mass influx was just starting, the existing reception units were already filled to their maximum capacity and beyond. Figure 5: The accommodation capacity of FRC and Pending Asylum Applications35 In Figure 5, the thick line representing reception capacity refers to the reception capacity of the FRC, excluding other organisations. The bar chart in the background portrays the overall Finnish capacity. It needs to be underlined that the gap between FRC capacity and the bar chart illustrating overall capacity represents the share of other actors. As the number of arrivals was unprecedented in the Finnish context, also many new actors opened reception centres for asylum seekers. The new actors included for example private companies, NGO’s, new municipalities and parishes.36 Closer scrutiny of the 34 See Finnish Red Cross: Press release: New reception centres planned to Kontiolahti, Kouvola and Lappajärvi, 25 August 2016, available at: https://www.punainenristi.fi/ uutiset/20150825/vastaanottokeskuksia-suunnitteilla-ainakin-kontiolahdellekouvolaan-lappajarvelle (20 April 2017). 35 Graphic from the Situation Room of the FRC (Internal Sources). 36 Before the 2015 Reception Units were managed only by municipalities, NGOs and the state. The new actors were running all types of units from temporary emergency shelters and bigger units for single men to units for unaccompanied minors. Private companies running reception units are for example: Luona oy, which is active in the capital region and Kotouma oy also active in southern Finland. Other NGO’s running reception centres included for example: Kalliolan Setlementti, Pelastakaa Lapset ry (Save the Children Finland), Mannerheimin Lastensuojelu Liitto (MLL), A Klinikka säätiö and Helsinki Deaconess Institute (Helsingin Diakonissa Laitos). From municipalities Espoo city has focused to the sector of unaccompanied minors and 123 graph clearly shows that neither the state nor any other organisation could have single-handedly managed the sudden influx of people. In addition to the FRC, the private sector and other organizations opened reception units to house asylum seekers. The situation gave rise to the establishment of various new actors – after its 40-year-old history the Finnish housing for humanitarian immigrants, which had been organised by NGOs, the state and the municipalities until that point, had changed, perhaps for good. The gap between registered asylum seekers and reception capacity illustrated on the chart is due to the fact that many asylum seekers were housed outside official reception units. Some individuals were housed in private homes, some found their own apartment and most of the people were in temporary housing, such as emergency shelters. September 2015 was the month when the system was put to the test and reception units were opened in a haste. Large parts of the Red Cross staff were mobilised to open new units. Staff of the FRC NA supported the staff of the districts all over the country. For the first time in history, the reserve of the international aid workers was called upon in a domestic context. They were mobilised for more than 100 domestic secondments.37 Also, the staff of the FRC logistic centre in Kalkku widely supported the operation.38 An operation room was established to the NA headquarters to coordinate the efforts of the districts and to share information with different actors. The estimated number of arriving asylum seekers for 2015, depending from sources, went soon up to 50.000 newcomers.39 For the first time in the history of the country, asylum seekers arriving in Finland travelled mostly through Sweden. They crossed the Finnish border in Tornio and headed south mostly towards Helsinki, but ending up in other locations as well. The early September saw arrivals in hundreds per day. The Finnish authorities were prepared to open a registration centre40 as part of the Helsinki city was operating many transit centres. Churches and parishes were also very active and hosted a wide range of units. 37 For more consult for example: Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015:8 (Internal Sources). 38 Kalkku logistic centre was delivering Material Aid: hall tents, health and hygiene kits and housing material e.g. beds, sheets and mattresses. The FRC second hand chain Kontti was also delivering clothes the asylum seekers. 39 This number was widely used in the press and in the public discussion. 40 A registration centre is a unit for the reception and registration of newly arrived asylum seekers. After being registered, the asylum seekers move to reception centres. See Finnish Immigration Service: Glossary, available at: http://www.migri.fi/for_ the_media/glossary (20 April 2017). 124 contingency plan by decision of the government. The authorities decided to take control over the situation and decided to take on a heavier measure from the contingency plans. In Tornio, where most of the arrivals crossed the border, a registration centre was opened. The main actors running it were: the National Police (registration), Border Control, MIGRI (interviews) and the FRC. Asylum seekers spent maximum one week at the centre waiting for the registration and afterwards a place in a reception unit. The FRC’s role in the Registration centre was: accommodation, food and first aid, giving special support to unaccompanied minors and restoring family links. Tornio registration centre was functional between 17th September 2015 and 18th March 2016 and it registered 16.612 asylum seekers within that time.41 Also, some asylum seekers that crossed northern Finnish border from the Russian side were directed to the registration centre. The registration centre was considered a successful joint operation and an award-winning joint effort of comprehensive security by many actors.42 As Figure 4 and 5 further illustrate, the number of units reached their peak in early 2016. As the European borders closed, the number of newcomers stagnated. Many of the asylum seekers returned home voluntarily and withdrew their application after a short period within the country. Some also relocated to other EU Member States. These developments occurred throughout the whole year of 2015 and continue until today in early 2017. During 2015, asylum seekers in the local community became something normal on a national scale. Many communities were housing foreign asylum seekers for the first time in their history.43 As Figures 6 and 7 display, many communities for the first time a sizeable foreign diaspora in their area. Before, multiculturality 41 In the registration centre 66 volunteers were active and they worked 833 working hours. The center employed 60 FRC staff members, who worked for 1.609 working days. It offered 16.558 days of accommodation and 96.952 Meals. The staff had 1.276 health contacts and 37 persons seconded to the hospital. The information is provided by the FRC situation room (Internal Sources). 42 The registration centre was awarded the Ministry of Defence’s safety committee’s annual Diamond Act Award. FRC was awarded together with MIGRI, Police, Border Control, Finnish Defence Forces and Customs. See Finnish Red Cross Press Release 18th March, 2016: The Registration Centre in Tornio receives the Diamond Act Award, see Finnish Red Cross: Vuoden 2015 Timanttiteko-palkinto Tornion järjestelykeskukselle, 18 March 2016, available at: https://www.punainen-risti.fi/uutiset/ 20160318/vuoden-2015-timanttiteko-palkinto-tornion-jarjestelykeskukselle (20 April 2017). 43 In the aftermath of the Second World War Finland resettled nearly 10% of its population from the areas that the Soviet Union conquered. 125 had been experienced mostly in bigger Finnish cities. In many communities, reserved attitudes and even resentments occurred when the newcomers were settled in their vicinity. After a short period, the mutual coexistence in most locations started to work in an ordinary manner. Finnish people also participated and decided to help in this effort in great numbers in the lines of the FRC and other organisations. Figure 6: Locations of Reception Units in the End of the 2014 and 201544 Figure 7: The Locations of Units for Unaccompanied Minors in the end of 2014 and 201545 44 Source: MIGRI: Statistics for 2015, available at: http://www.migri.fi/download/ 64996_Tilastograafit_2015_valmis.pdf?93812b9ffb39d488 (20 April 2017). 45 Source: MIGRI: Statistics for 2015, available at: http://www.migri.fi/download/ 64996_Tilastograafit_2015_valmis.pdf?93812b9ffb39d488 (20 April 2017). 126 The role of volunteers was crucial in this operation. FRC could not have carried out a reception operation of this scale without the existing volunteer reserves organised in local branches and new volunteers that joined the ranks during 2015. “Volunteers gave a major contribution both to setting up reception centres and to their daily activities. For example, the Harjavalta reception centre relied solely on volunteers for the first two weeks of its operation.”46 It is obvious that the staff of the FRC, municipalities and authorities were not sufficient for an operation of this scale and therefore the volunteers of the FRC were needed. This is the main function of the organisation and its volunteers. The FRC had to recruit more than 1.500 new employees for the reception centres all over Finland.47 MIGRI’s services related to these affairs also expanded quickly. In October 2015 MIGRI had 363 employees and in November 2016 they had a staff of 502. These individuals were mainly hired to process asylum applications.48 Other actors had to recruit a lot of staff to meet the demands of the situation as well. The willingness of Finnish people to help was unprecedented. Roughly 8.000 volunteers were active in the FRC during the operation.49 Many other civil society organisations were active during the events and the total number of volunteers and organisations that took part in Finland is difficult to estimate. Many organisations were active in the FRC’s reception units and many FRC volunteers were active in other actors’ reception units. 12.898 new volunteers enrolled to the FRC online in 2015.50 In Helsinki and Uusimaa district alone, more than 6.000 new volunteers registered during September and October, most of them in the capital's region.51 The number of potential helpers was bigger than the number of asylum seekers housed in the region. The 35th annual Hunger Day fundraising campaign for the FRC Disaster Relief Fund in September 2015 broke a record result of 3.8 million Euros, due to the asylum seeker situation.52 During the period from May 2015 to May 2016, 46 Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015, p. 8 (Internal Sources). 47 The number is from the FRC situation room (Internal Sources). 48 See Finnish Immigration Service: Annual Report 2015, available at: http://www. migri.fi/download/67266_vuo-sikertomus2015_en.pdf?bee83bd08d30d488 (20 April 2017). 49 See Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015, p. 8 (Internal Sources). 50 See Ibid. 51 See Finnish Red Cross: Annual Report for the Year 2015, p. 19 (Internal Sources). 52 The Campaign gathered more than 3.8 million €. Only twice has the outcome exceeded 3 million € in 1992 and in 1984. See Finnish Red Cross: Press Release: The Refugee Situation Made Finns to Help - Hungerday Campaign to a Record Result, 20 October 127 31% of the Finnish population supported the FRC financially.53 Besides the financial contributions and devotion of personal free time, the number of other donations was impressive as well. People, organisations and companies contributed all kinds of commodities, from hygiene products to clothing and sports gear. Some reception units received more donations than they could share. Volunteers performed various tasks and some of them eventually were employed at the reception centres. They helped in establishing units, in organising activities for the residents, they taught languages (English, Finnish and Swedish) to residents, introduced them to their new communities and surroundings, assisted newcomers with their daily errands, organised donations of clothes and other goods and became friends with the newcomers. Volunteers were active all over the country with some variance occurring in the activity levels from one centre to another.54 To many who were granted asylum in Finland, the FRC volunteers have acted as a support person for integration. Volunteers have also acted as a bridge between the local community and the asylum seekers helping to overcome cultural differences. Their role in influencing local attitudes was significant since they, together with employees of the reception units, met neighbours and took part in awareness raising efforts. This way, they brought the immigrants closer to their new places of residence. The volunteers of the organisation were widely appreciated also outside the Red Cross. For example, FRC volunteers received the 2015 annual Candle Award by Amnesty International Finland for their contribution to the upholding of human rights.55 In many cases all, three levels of the FRC were actively engaged and had the Delegate Reserve as their support. The districts were supported both from the local branch level and from the NA. The unprecedented joint effort also had effects on the public image of the NGO. According to an image study conducted by an external research organisation, “the management of the 2015, available at: https://www.punainenristi.fi/uutiset/20151020/pako-laistilannesai-suomalai–set-autta-maan-nalkapaiva-kerayksesta-ennatystulos (20 April 2017). 53 See Taloustutkimus Oy: Omnibus, Tuomo Turja, 30 May 2016. T-15625. Suomen Punainen Risti. Tunnettuus ja imago Toukokuu 2016 (Finnish Red Cross – Image and Recognition study), p. 4 (Internal Sources). 54 Some Reception Units were located far away from populated areas and therefore the number of volunteers stayed quite small in some locations. 55 See Finnish Red Cross: Press Release: Amnesty’s Human Rights Award to the Finnish Red Cross Volunteers, 10 December 2015, available at: https://www. punainenristi.fi/uutiset/20151210/amnestyn-ihmisoikeuspalkinto-punaisen-ristinvapaaehtoisille (20 April 2017). 128 refugee crisis has improved the perception of the FRC among citizens. This holds true for the segment of society that has at least a slightly positive image of the organisation, which includes three out of four Finns.”56 Unfortunately, the views among groups that have a negative image of the organisations deteriorated.57 From February 2016 onwards, the focus of the operation moved from scaling up to maintaining the reception centres and preparing for a controlled scale down. The processing of the asylum applications became much faster in MIGRI and the organisation started making decisions for shutting down centres. Many units became obsolete as there was unnecessary capacity. Many people left the country and some received asylum. During the spring of 2016, the first closings of the reception units started as the number of people in need of accommodation diminished. During 2016, MIGRI handled 28.208 cases related to international protection of which 7.734 lead to a positive decision.58 In 2016, Finland received 5.657 new asylum applications. This is a substantial decline from 2015 and follows the general European trend, but nevertheless in the Finnish context 2016 was a busy year. In the beginning of 2017 the operation room, established in fall 2015, located in the NA of the FRC closed its doors. The operation itself was considered completed in October 2016. 6 Conclusion: A successful operation According to the material presented in this paper, it becomes evident that Finnish society had prepared itself for a scenario such as this one and beyond. The Finnish society adapted quickly and successfully to the challenging situation. Plans for even more challenging scenarios had been drafted. The FRC had developed its readiness and managed to receive approximately half of the new-comers, which is an impressive operation. The organisations that had developed the contingency plans worked closely together and cooperated, for example, in sectors like healthcare and education. Furthermore, many other actors not included in the plans, such as companies and some NGOs, were involved during the events. Basically, many tiers and sectors of society came together in a context that was new for many of the actors involved. 56 Taloustutkimus Oy: Omnibus, Tuomo Turja, 30 May 2016. T-15625. Suomen Punainen Risti. Tunnettuus ja imago Toukokuu 2016 (Finnish Red Cross – Image and Recognition study), p. 38 (Internal Sources). 57 See Ibid. 58 See Finnish Immigration Service: Statistics, available at: http://tilastot.migri.fi/# decisions?l=en (20 April 2017). Most of the people arrived during 2015, but their case was handled in 2016. 129 The FRC had a unique role and was very much present in the media and in the public discussion. As the research shows, this contributed to the public image of the NGO. Finland is a country that has always had a very active civil society and strong tradition of local associations. Many local parishes and churches together with numerous organisations took action and helped asylum seekers in this period. Where help was needed, local communities became active. Both the volunteers and staff of the FRC showed commitment and capability to stretch under a heavy pressure. The events have often been described as a sudden influx or ‘wave’ of people. Many types of reactions from positive to negative were experienced among the local population during the events. Finland is still continuing the debate about its immigration policy, but despite the debate the events in 2015 and in 2016 have permanently changed the Finnish society. Citizens have realised that crises, which seem geographically distant, can have repercussions that affect the local context as well. Although people were housed and received with success, plenty of them will be sent back due to the Finnish immigration policy. Now, in early 2017, many people are waiting for the results to their appeals against their negative asylum decisions. After exhausting all the remedies, they have to return to their countries of origin. The number of undocumented migrants is expected to rise because of these policies and due to recent amendments to them.59 It is worrying that this type of development is preferred over the international protection of individuals. The Finnish Red Cross was ready to act because a wide base of individuals and communities were ready to roll up their sleeves and took action in the sphere of the organisation. The FRC volunteers made an impressive effort during this period. Together with the strong civil society the FRC has a substantial role in societal resilience in Finland. The high number of active individuals in society is a solid base for the Finnish Red Cross to maintain preparedness for disasters, accidents and the humanitarian needs of society. 59 See Camilla Nordberg's article in this volume.

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Abstract

The Nordic EU Member States are generally considered to have common perspectives and interests regarding European integration. A differentiated look reveals, though, that fundamental differences in the respective agendas towards certain policy fields exist. The increasing number of refugees seeking protection within European borders in the last years has unveiled a major divergence of interests particularly between Sweden and Finland regarding the common European asylum policy: Sweden has within a few years turned into one of the continent’s top destinations for asylum seekers, whereas Finland has characterized itself as one of Europe’s most restrictive asylum and migration management regimes. The openly stated differences of these two countries, both in terms of actual numbers and implemented national policy guidelines, are representative for the opposing political forces emerging within the European Union in shaping the common asylum policy. Due to the increasing internal and external pressure on the EU in managing the refugee crisis, this issue has not only gained significant importance and emphasis on a national level, but also from a European point of view.

This volume differentiates the Nordic perspectives on shaping EU asylum policies by focusing on the two contrasting country case studies of Sweden and Finland. Why have these neighbouring countries, characterized by similar economic and social welfare systems, chosen such different approaches in facing the challenges arising from the refugee crisis and in implementing asylum policies? For both countries, questions for the interests of key actors dominating the national debates on asylum policy are prevalent. The respective agendas of Sweden and Finland, their different political approaches and problems inside their respective societies as well as the national strategies at the European level in shaping the Common European Asylum System in light of the refugee crisis are in the focus of the contributions.