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Helsinki Deaconess Institute:
Undocumented persons require their own services

A grouping of undocumented persons has emerged in Finland, according to a report by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute’s Unprotected Project. The situation neither benefits the individuals concerned not society as a whole. The Helsinki Deaconess Institute has proposed five social solutions to this problem.

According to the Unprotected Project report, a new grouping of undocumented persons will remain in Finland, will not leave voluntarily, and who cannot be removed from the country by the authorities. It is difficult to predict how large this grouping will become.

“Based on field interviews done for the project, people will remain in Finland in a situation where being undocumented is at the moment the least bad of only bad options”, says the report’s author Tuuli Shinyella, an expert with the Helsinki Deaconess Institute.

So far, there has been a limited need for emergency accommodation for undocumented undocumented migrants. Many undocumented persons hope to find work and, thereby, obtain a residence permit. There is also a great need for them to obtain advice, guidance on services, and psychosocial support in their own languages.

An especially vulnerable grouping of people has emerged in Finland with the situation of undocumented persons. The marginal status of being undocumented and tightening legal possibilities of such things as housing and income lead to an increase of black markets in the areas of work and housing. Undocumented persons are also especially susceptible to various forms of exploitation. Being in a desperate situation also increases the risk of radicalisation and various behavioural problems of various kinds.

“The increasing lack of documentation benefits neither the individuals concerned nor Finnish society. We now need some sensible solutions”, says the Institute’s director of Diaconia and social responsibility Marja Pentikäinen.

For this reason, the Helsinki Deaconess Institute has proposes five practical measures:

• There should be a action model that would meet the needs of undocumented persons, and in which emergency accommodation, a day centre and counselling and advice would be located in the same place. From the viewpoint of undocumented persons it would be easier to work out an service aggregate in which the services provided for ghem would be available from the same venue. This would also better respond to their needs and improve the effectiveness and availability of services.

• Undocumented persons must be guaranteed basic rights and human rights.
When drafting new laws, guidelines and practices, policy makers and authorities must guarantee the prerequisites of a life of dignity for all, including undocumented persons. Everyone is entitled to essential subsistence, accommodation, health, and basic education, and the access of undocumented persons to these services, including at a practical level, must be ensured. It is also important to ensure that undocumented persons are not at a disadvantage based on the municipality in which they are staying. It is important to ensure that undocumented persons have the possibility to apply for the limited services to which they are entitled without fearing that, for instance, they would be reported to the police. Immigration policy and the fundamental rights of everyone in Finland must be distinguished from one another.

• Special attention must be given to all those undocumented persons in the most vulnerable positions, such as children, pregnant women or people in a poor state of health or mental health. The psychological ill health of asylum seekers and undocumented persons must be taken seriously, and the scope for undocumented persons to have access to spychosocial support must be increased.

• The path to acquiring employment and a work-based residence permit must be made easier. It would be rational to increase the possibilities for undocumented persons to acquire legal rights of residence on the basis of employment. There is much expertise and potential among undocumented persons that should be at the disposal of Finnish society through their employment.

• Grant temporary rights of residence to those persons who cannot return to their own countries and who cannot be removed from Finland. The fact that there is a growing number of people living outside the realm of society as undocumented persons benefits no one. We support a humane asylum policy based on international human rights agreements, and we oppose the forced return of people to crisis countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. In a situation where people who receive negative asylum decisions do not leave Finland, and cannot be removed from the country, they shoud be granted temporary residence permits. In this way, such people would be known to the authorities, contact would be maintained with them and they would remain within the scope of access to basic services.

The Helsinki Deaconess Institute is continuing to develop its services for undocumented persons and improve them in responding to the needs of such persons. We are already working in close collaboration with parishes, the Finnish Red Cross, and the City of Helsinki. The institute is also seeking premises where together with other actors it would be able to provide undocumented emergency attention.

The Unprotected Project has also started experimenting with the possibilities of civic activity to support undocumented people. For example, volunteers have helped undocumented persons obtain income support. In the future, the proportion of civic activity in operations will be developed and expanded based on the experiences gained.

Further information:

Marja Pentikäinen
Director, Helsinki Deaconess Institute, Diaconia and social responsibility
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Tuuli Shinyella
Expert, Unprotected Project
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pdfThe report is available only in Finnish

May 5, 2017