Halla-aho “positively surprised” by Finnish family unification process
Chairman of Administrative Committee on visit to Ethiopia
The chairman of Parliament’s Administrative Committee Jussi Halla-aho (True Finns) says that he is positively surprised at how the Finnish Embassy in Ethiopia handles applications for family unification that it gets mainly from family members of Somalis living in Finland.
On a fact-finding visit to Ethiopia, Halla-aho said that while he had initial suspicions, the interviews of those hoping to join family members in Finland function well and are well organised.
Halla-aho visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa late last week together with a parliamentary civil servant. The Finnish Embassy in Ethiopia is the closest Finnish diplomatic mission for Somalis.
There is a serious backlog of applications for family unification by relatives of foreign citizens who have been granted residence permits. Currently about 10,000 such applications are waiting to be processed, more than 6,000 of which are by Somalis.
The committee headed by Halla-aho deals with legislation linked with immigration and asylum seekers. Halla-aho was elected to Parliament in April this year, and is seen as the ideological force behind the faction of the True Finns’ party that is most adamantly critical of immigration.
“I am quite optimistic after this visit. The situation appears to be under control”, Halla-aho says.
The aim of the interviews is to establish the veracity of claims of kinship, a basic requirement of family unification. Reliable identity documents are rare, largely because of the chaotic situation that prevails in Somalia.
“I was surprised at how efficient the interviews are. They ask about details of living arrangements and the stories are compared for consistency", Halla-aho said.
While the process is thorough, it is also quite slow, which means that the backlog is not getting any shorter. One interviewer can process about two applicants a day.
Halla-aho also met with representatives of the Norwegian and Dutch embassies, as well as Mohamud Issan, the leader of the Somali community in Addis Ababa, with whom he visited the Somali quarter of the city.
Halla-aho says that there is a loophole in Finnish legislation which keeps the number of family unification applications at a high level.
“The screw can be tightened nationally. This is not about refugees – it’s about people who take advantage of the fact that they have a family member, or someone who is claimed to be a family member, living in Finland.”
Halla-aho proposes imposing a fee on family unification applications. He would also impose a requirement that immigrants who want their family members to join them in Finland should have a minimum level of housing and personal income.
Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen (Christ. Dem.) recently ordered a study on whether or not legislation should be changed in this respect. Results are expected in February.
Finland has already tightened the regulations by requiring that applications for family unification can no longer be made in Finland. In the case of Somalia, the applications need to be submitted to in Ethiopia or Kenya.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland putting curbs on travel compensation for refugee family unification (20.10.2010)
Finnish immigration officials overwhelmed by Somali family unification requests (30.8.2010)
Finnish Immigration Service: Applying for a residence permit on the basis of family ties
Finland to take tougher line on family unification for immigrants (25.10.2011)