Volumes of asylum claims received by Finnish authorities have fallen to pre-2015 levels, according to new migration statistics.
In March the Immigration Service received 359 new asylum applications, which is comparable to the numbers of people arriving during the second half of 2014.
Asylum applications to Finland hit an all-time high last September, when just short of 11,000 people arrived in the country to claim asylum in a single month. A total of 32,500 applications were received in 2015.
New figures released by the Immigration Service show that there were 2,300 applications for asylum in the first three months of 2016, with numbers falling off significantly after January. The Interior Ministry estimates there will be around 10,000 applications this year, but says it has made preparations for the arrival of 50,000 people.
The drop-off in numbers is reflected across Europe, and follows a deal between the EU and Turkey to forcibly return people who make it across the sea to Greece. The arrangement has been hailed as a success by EU and Turkish governments, although has been sharply criticised by human rights groups who argue the scheme undermines people’s rights to claim asylum.
Finland’s Immigration Service also says it has now processed 12,892 applications of the 35,000 received since the start of 2015.
The largest group, of 5,049 people (39 percent), have withdrawn their claim or voluntarily left the country. 3,231 people – or one in four decisions – have been granted permission to stay in the country either permanently or temporarily. 2,279 applications have been refused, with a similar amount left unresolved.
Seven out of ten asylum seekers are from Iraq. Of the Iraqi claims, 7,000 have been processed, with the majority, 4,115 people, withdrawing their claims or leaving Finland. Of those remaining, 1,315 were granted temporary or permanent asylum, and 538 were refused. 1,001 cases were unresolved.
Around 25,000 people, currently housed in reception centres, emergency accommodation or underage care facilities, are still waiting for a decision on their asylum claims.