Amendment to Aliens Act would open doors to hundreds of grandparents
Currently some 20 elderly people from countries of the former Soviet Union are waiting for Finnish residence permits. Proposed amendments to the Aliens Act could allow hundreds of elderly people to move into Finland from Russia every year, estimates the Finnish Immigration Service.
Under existing legislation, a residence permit may be granted on the basis of family ties, if a close relative is ”completely dependent” on the person residing in Finland. If the Act is amended to read ”significantly dependent”, it would lead to a growing number of aged parents tempted to move to Finland.
The Finnish Immigration Service believes that hundreds of elderly people - most of them women - would come to Finland from the regions of St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk.
The most important spur encouraging aged people to move to Finland would be Russia’s significantly weaker level of social services and health care compared with that of Finland, as well as the applicants’ children who live in Finland. Russians comprise the largest group of immigrants in Finland.
In recent weeks, the deportation decisions of two grandmothers - Egyptian Eveline Fadayel and Russian Irina Antonova - have been given much publicity in Finland.
Currently, a total of about 20 aged parents who have arrived in Finland on a visa from the former Soviet Union are waiting for a decision on their residence permits.
The applicants are between 60 and 95 years of age and most of them are women.
In many cases, the applicant has a daughter who lives in Finland and has dual nationality.
In the past decade, the Finnish Immigration Service has made hundreds of decisions to remove elderly foreign persons from the country. The refusals of entry have been based on the definitions of policy made by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Negative decisions tend to be the rule, while granting a residence permit in such cases is the exception.
The primary underlying factor behind the rejections is money, as the Finnish social security system is based on residence.
On Wednesday, Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party) met with the Parliament’s Administration Committee to discuss the pressure to amend the Aliens Act, which was prompted by the cases of the two grandmothers.
They came to a conclusion that the Ministry of the Interior should examine the matter further, and the Minister and the Administration Committee will revert to the subject in mid-May. If the amendment proposal becomes a bill, the Committee will play a pivotal role in the matter.
Thors says that the proposed amendment has not been ruled out, but it is equally possible that the Aliens Act will remain unchanged. It is pertinent to the examination to determine if the present law has been implemented in a manner that corresponds to what Parliament wanted when it passed the criteria for residence permits ten years ago.
According to Tapani Tölli (Centre Party), the chairman of the Administration Committee, Parliament has to remember that mere publicity cannot have an impact on legislation.
”I do not believe in large renovations of legislation”, says Tapani Tölli.
The number of residence permit applications has shown neither an increase nor a decline in recent years.
”The number of applications has remained moderately low, as our policy is widely known. Applicants are informed at the time of applying that the granting of a residence permit is not likely. The fee for the processing of an application is EUR 225, and people are not willing to submit applications to no avail”, reports Senior Officer Pentti Sorsa from the Finnish Immigration Service.
Relaxing the residence permits criteria could lead to considerable financial repercussions. Health care for the elderly is a significant financial burden on the welfare system.
Even if an old person is taken care of at home, he or she is entitled to use Finnish health care services - and experience has shown that they avail themselves of this possibility.
According to the information gathered by Helsingin Sanomat, the physicians of the Finnish central hospitals have a rather critical attitude towards the granting of residence permits, saying that the present patients alone are a large enough burden on the current resources.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Two grandmothers awaiting deportation to be given a second opportunity (25.3.2010)
Two grandmothers to be deported (9.3.2010)