torstai 26. elokuuta 2004

HS: Asylum application processing now fastest in Europe

HS: Asylum application processing now fastest in Europe 26.8.2004

Efforts by the Directorate of Immigration to speed up the processing of asylum applications appear to have had the desired effect. The process now takes just four months, instead of up to several years as was previously the case.
The efficiency campaign has led to savings of EUR 3.8 million for the Ministry of Labour, which is responsible for the maintenance of Finland’s refugee reception centres.
Minister of the Interior Kari Rajamäki (SDP) said on Wednesday that when he took office, the processing times for asylum applications were unreasonably long. Rajamäki took part in a ceremony inaugurating a regional unit of the Directorate of Immigration.

An efficiency campaign was launched in February this year, in which the backlog of applications was reduced, and the decision-making process speeded up. Rajamäki noted that the situation was also helped by dispersing some of the activities of the Directorate of Immigration. In May a new unit was set up in Kuhmo in Eastern Finland, and the Lappeenranta unit in the southeast opened on Wednesday. A separate unit at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is scheduled to open in November.
In spite of the progress, Rajamäki says that there is room for improvement.
"There are still too many applicants at the reception centres who are waiting for a decision by the Helsinki Administrative Court on their appeals, or for transport out of the country by the police. Each applicant costs the state about 40 euros a day."
In its budget talks this summer, the government agreed to earmark EUR 3.5 million for the next three years for deportation expenses and translation and interpretation costs.
Another factor speeding up the asylum process is that there are fewer cases that need to be processed. About half of the asylum applicants coming to Finland arrived after receiving a negative response in another European Union member state. Under EU rules they are immediately sent back to the EU country where they first applied for asylum.

The next backlog to be tackled involves applications by foreign residents for Finnish citizenship. About 6,000 naturalisation applications are now under consideration, and the waiting time for an applicant is currently between two and three years.
An effort to speed up the process is set to begin in two weeks, when about 20 workers at the refugee and asylum section of the Directorate of Immigration are to be transferred to the citizenship section. At the same time all decisions on asylum applicants by citizens of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas will be transferred to Kuhmo and Lappeenranta.
"From the beginning of next year the intention is to bring down the waiting time for asylum applications to a year and a half, and the goal is to reduce it further.
He also said that the faster processing would not have a negative impact on the quality of the processing: the applications will continue to be handled individually.