No detention centre mapping data


Finland Immigration Detention

Although the number of foreign nationals residing in Finland has risen over the past two decades, Finland attracts relatively few immigrants and asylum seekers compared to other European countries. Perhaps due to these low numbers of immigrants, the country’s detention policies and infrastructure are of fairly recent origin. Legislation specifying the conditions for detention was passed in 2002, followed by the establishment of the country’s first immigration detention unit in 2003. Prior to 2003, foreign nationals apprehended under aliens legislation were held in police facilities.

Quick Facts


Immigration detainees (2013): 444
Detained asylum seekers (2012): 369
Persons expelled (2014): 3,195
International migrants (2015): 315,900
New asylum applications (2016): 5,519

Profile Updated: September 2009

Finland Immigration Detention Profile

Although the number of foreign nationals residing in Finland has risen over the past two decades, Finland attracts relatively few immigrants and asylum seekers compared to other European countries. Officials at the country’s sole detention unit estimate that the number of irregular immigrants in the country is in the hundreds (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Perhaps due to the low numbers of immigrants, the country’s detention policies and infrastructure are of fairly recent origin. Legislation specifying the conditions for detention was passed in 2002 (Laki säilöön otettujen ulkomaalaisten kohtelusta ja säilöönottoyksiköistä 2002), followed by the establishment of the country’s first immigration detention unit in 2003 (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Prior to 2003, foreign nationals apprehended under aliens legislation were held in police facilities (CPT 1999, p.53).

Detention Policy

The principle piece of legislation relating to immigration detention policy in Finland is the 2004 Aliens Act which, inter alia, determines the grounds for detention. A person may be placed in administrative detention when authorities consider this necessary to establish their identity, to ensure the fulfilment of a deportation order, or to prevent that person from committing a crime (Aliens Act 2004, §121). In practice, this means that detained persons include both asylum seekers whose identity is unclear and irregular immigrants subject to a deportation order, with the latter constituting the overwhelming majority (approximately 90 percent) of detained persons. Deportation rates are high: in 2007, 85 percent of detained persons were deported (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Unaccompanied minors may not be held in police facilities, but may be detained in the specialised migrant detention unit (Aliens Act 2004, §122,123).

Police and border guards are authorized to apprehend irregular immigrants. Detainees may be held in border guard facilities for a maximum of 48 hours and in police facilities for a maximum of 4 days, after which they are to be transferred to a detention unit. However, detention in police facilities may be extended in cases where the detention unit is full (Aliens Act §123). It is unclear how long the waiting lists for the detention unit are, but with Metsälä Detention Unit operating continuously at close to full capacity, officials at the detention unit speculate that there is reason to suspect that foreign nationals are often held in police detention facilities for periods exceeding four days (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

Once placed in detention, a district court must hear the case of the foreign national within four days (Aliens Act §124). The district court then decides whether to release the person or to continue his/her detention (Aliens Act §126). A district court reviews cases every two weeks (Aliens Act §128).

Although the European Parliament’s 2008 “Return Directive” requires that member states set a limited period of detention, Finland had not, as of September 2009, set such a limit (EU 2008, § 15; CPT 2009, p. 22; Nuutinen 2009). In practice, judges have adopted the practice of releasing a person after three months of continuous detention if deportation has not been possible. As of September 2009, the longest period of detention at Finland’s sole detention unit had been 124 days. However, irregular immigrants have at times been detained on several separate instances (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Furthermore, with the average length of detention rising from 10.3 days in 2003 to 29 days of detention during January-April 2009 (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009), the average length of detention in Finland is notably higher than that of other European countries. For example, in France the average length of detention was 10.17 days in 2007 and the legal maximum length of detention is set at 32 days (Cimade 2008). The lack of legal safeguards regarding the length of detention has been criticised, in particular by detainees themselves. In early 2008, several detainees participated in a hunger strike, protesting their long periods of detention (HS 2008).

Detention Infrastructure

As of September 2009, Finland maintained only one dedicated facility for holding irregular immigrants in administrative detention, the Metsälä Detention Unit for Aliens. In addition, the Finnish government and the Finnish Red Cross separately operate several non-secure reception centres for asylum seekers (Ministry of the Interior 2009). Residents at these centres are free to come and go as they please (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

The Metsälä Detention Unit operates in the same building as the Metsälä Reception Centre, although the two facilities operate under separate management (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). The detention unit at Metsälä was established in 2005 and replaced an earlier detention unit located at the former Katajanokka prison (operational 2003-2004), also in Helsinki (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). The 2002 Act on the Treatment of Aliens Placed in Detention and Detention Units (Laki säilöön otettujen ulkomaalaisten kohtelusta ja säilöönottoyksiköistä) regulates the conditions of detention. The total detention capacity in Metsälä is 40 (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

The Metsälä detention centre is run by the Helsinki City Social Sector, whose staff are social workers. This management arrangement contrasts sharply with that of many other countries, where detention centres are generally run by some form of security personnel. The Metsälä unit contracts catering, cleaning, and security services to a for-profit company called Palmia that is owned by the city of Helsinki (Nuutinen & Mäkinen).

The detention unit employs one guard from Palmia during evening hours. Finland’s ombudsman has questioned the legality of the use of an external security service (YLE 2009). The Act on the Treatment of Aliens Placed in Detention and Detention Units specifies that security and monitoring tasks in detention units are the responsibility of government officials (Laki säilöön otettujen ulkomaalaisten kohtelusta ja säilöönottoyksiköistä 2002, §36).  However, because the service provider is owned by the city, the same authority that manages the detention unit, the detention unit management has proposed to change the nature of the security guard’s employment contract to make the security personnel government officials and to thus fulfil this legal criterion (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). 

Provisions for dealing with unrest among detainees include the isolation of detainees in a separate room or, when this is not sufficient to guarantee the safety of other detainees as well as facility staff, to temporarily transfer adult detainees to police holding facilities (Laki säilöön otettujen ulkomaalaisten kohtelusta ja säilöönottoyksiköistä 2002, § 8, 9).

Asylum claimants detained at Metsälä are provided interpretation and legal services by the NGO Refugee Advice Centre, which is under contract with the detention facility (Laki säilöön otettujen ulkomaalaisten kohtelusta ja säilöönottoyksiköistä 2002, §30; Rummakko 2009). The detention unit provides basic services, including four daily meals, medical services as needed, and laundry facilities (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Additionally, detainees who have no means are entitled to two Euros per day for other expenses. Men and women are regularly segregated, but segregation of minors is done on an ad hoc basis (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

A human rights body has found that that the infrastructure for the practice of apprehending and detaining immigrants in Finland is relatively humane. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), in their 2009 report, stated that “many detainees interviewed spoke positively about the staff” of the detention unit and that “it is … noteworthy that none of the foreign nationals interviewed made any allegations concerning ill-treatment by the police and Border Guard staff” (CPT 2009, 23). The CPT report concluded that “the regime of activities [offered by the facility] appeared attuned to the varied needs of the detainees, including being sensitive to the requirements of women and families” (CPT 2009, 24). In a discussion with a researcher from the Global Detention Project, the detention unit personnel emphasised a commitment to transparency and were extremely forthcoming with requests for information.

On the other hand, the CPT has raised concerns about problems stemming from the limited capacity of Finland’s detention infrastructure: detained persons are apprehended by the police or border guards and detained in their facilities until they can be transferred to a detention unit. With a capacity of only 40 persons in the detention unit and the unit consistently operating at close to maximum capacity, the CPT urged the Finnish authorities to consider opening another detention unit (CPT 2009, 22).

Facts & Figures

Finland attracts relatively few immigrants and asylum seekers compared to its European neighbours (Finnish Immigration Service 2009). For example, while Sweden has a net migration rate of 1.66 persons per 1,000; Finland’s net migration rate is 0.68 (2009 estimates, CIA 2009).

In 2008, 5,404 unauthorized immigrants were apprehended within Finland and at the Finnish border (EMN 2009, p.22). Officials estimate that the number of unauthorized residents in Finland is in the hundreds (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009). Seventy-five deportation orders were issued in 2008; immigration authorities do not release data on the actual number of deportations (Finnish Immigration Service 2009). At the end of 2008, 2,742 asylum cases were pending (UNHCR 2009).

Detention statistics acquired by the Global Detention Project are based on detention in the specialised units in Helsinki, and do not include detention in police or border guard facilities. Statistics between 2003 and 2004 refer to the Katajanokka detention unit (now closed) and statistics from 2005 on refer to the Metsälä detention unit.

Finland has a detention capacity of 40 persons at the Metsälä detention center, which is the country’s only detention unit specialising in administrative detention of foreign nationals. Additionally, foreign nationals may be detained in police and border guard facilities (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

The number of persons detained annually in the Helsinki detention unit has ranged from 648 in 2003 to 488 in 2007. In 2008, a total of 541 persons were detained. Of these persons, the percentage of women has ranged from 29.1 in 2003 to 11.6 in 2008. Out of the total population of detained persons, between 3 percent (2007) and 11.5 percent (2003) have been minors. Three unaccompanied minors were detained in 2003, and 15 in 2005.

The average number of detainees held at the detention unit at any one time ranged from 30.2 in 2005 to 36.7 in 2008. Between January and April 2009, 160 persons were detained in total. Of these, 149 were men and 11 women. Eight minors, five of whom were unaccompanied, were detained during this period. The principle nationalities of detained persons between January and April 2009 were Iraqi, Somali, Nigerian, Kosovar, and Russian (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

The average length of detention rose from 10.3 days in 2003 to 24.2 days in 2008. Between January and April 2009, the average length of detention was 29 days, the median 17 days, and the longest period of detention was 118 days. As of September 2009, the longest period of detention recorded at the Metsälä detention center was 124 days (Nuutinen & Mäkinen 2009).

References

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



444

Total number of immigration detainees by year

2013

  • Total number of immigration detainees by year
NumberObservation Date
4442013
4102012
4582011
5342010
5092009


291

Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention

2014

  • Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention
NumberObservation Date
2912014
2582012
3522011
4042010
3742009


369

Number of detained asylum seekers

2012

  • Number of detained asylum seekers
NumberObservation Date
3692012
4122011
4812010


4

Number of detained unaccompanied minors

2012

  • Number of detained unaccompanied minors
NumberObservation Date
42012
42011
32010


2,930

Number of apprehensions of non-citizens

2014

  • Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
NumberObservation Date
2,9302014
3,3652013
3,6202012


0.15

Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population

2013

  • Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
PercentageObservation Date
0.152013
0.222010


70

Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2017

  • Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
702017


3,195

Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)

2014

  • Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
NumberObservation Date
3,1952014
3,1552013
3,0702012


95.1

Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures

2014

  • Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures
PercentageObservation Date
95.12014


3,174

Criminal prison population

2017

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
3,1742017
3,1342013


18.6

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2017

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
18.62017
14.52012


57

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2017

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
572017
582013



5,503,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
5,503,0002015
6,400,0002012


315,900

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
315,9002015
293,2002013
248,0002010


5.7

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
5.72015
5.42013


18,302

Refugees

2016

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
18,3022016
12,7032015
11,2522014


2.15

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
2.152014
1.852012


5,519

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
5,5192016
3,5172014
2,9222012


20.2

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
20.22014


2,671

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
2,6712016
1,9282015
2,1222014

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition Show sources
NameObservation Date
Civil law2017

Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Aliens Act 301/2004 (Ulkomaalaislaki, 30.4.2004/301)20042016
Additional legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Legal Aid Act (257/2002; Oikeusapulaki)20022011

Immigration-status-related grounds Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention to effect removal2017
Detention to prevent absconding2017
Detention during the asylum process2017
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality2017

Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations? Show sources
FinesIncarcerationObservation Date
YesYes2014
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration Show sources
Grounds for IncarcerationMaximum Number of Days of IncarcerationObservation Date
Unauthorized entry3652014

Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
3652017
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
42017
Average length of detention Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
122013
112012
132011
112010

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detentionNo2017
Right to legal counselYes2017
Independent review of detentionYes2017

Types of non-custodial measures Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Designated non-secure housingYes2017
Supervised release and/or reportingYesinfrequently2017
Registration (deposit of documents)Yesinfrequently2017
Release on bailYesinfrequently2017
Designated non-secure housingNoNo2014
Electronic monitoringNoNo2014

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Accompanied minorsNo2015

International Law Expand all

Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  12/16
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
CRC, [Third] Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishing a communications procedure, 20112015
ICESCR, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 20082014
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 19992000
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention1989
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19661975
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention1970
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
6/6
6/6
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation Year
Committee against Torture13. The State party should: [...] (e) Refrain from detaining asylum seekers and aliens, promote alternatives to detention and revise its policy to bring it into line with the Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers and Alternatives to Detention; (f) Set up a mechanism to monitor and provide statistics, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and country of origin, on asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants detained under the Aliens Act and provide the Committee with that information.2017
Human Rights Committee

§10 [...] The State party should use alternatives to detaining asylum seekers and irregular migrants whenever possible. The State party should also guarantee that administrative detention for immigration purposes is justified as reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the light of the specific circumstances, and subjected to periodic evaluation and judicial review, in accordance with the requirements of article 9 of the Covenant. The State party should strengthen its efforts to improve living conditions in the Metsälä detention centre.

2013

Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission Show sources
NameYear in ForceObservation Date
Bulgaria20042017
Denmark19572017
Estonia19962017
Latvia19972017
Lithuania19972017
Romania20012017
Sweden19572017
Switzerland20102017
Iceland19572017
Norway19572017
Kosovo20122017
Russian Federation20132017
Afghanistan20142017

Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20082017
No20172017
Yes20122017

Institutions Expand all

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Ministry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2009
Ministry of LabourLabour2005
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Helsinki Municipal Department for Social AffairsGovernmental2009
Types of detention facilities used in practice
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
2015

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
Finnish Human Rights Centre and the Parliamentary OmbudsmanNational Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2016
Finnish Human Rights Centre and the Parliamentary OmbudsmanOPCAT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)2014
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)International or Regional Bodies (IRBs)2014
Is the national human rights institution (NHRI) recognized as independent? Show sources
Is the NHRI recognized as independent by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions?Observation Date
Yes2016
Does NHRI carry out visits? Show sources
Does NHRI carry out visits in practice?Observation Date
Yes2014
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints? Show sources
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?Observation Date
Yes2016
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention? Show sources
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention?Observation Date
Yes2014
Does national preventive mechanism (NPM) carry out visits? Show sources
Does NPM carry out visits in practice?Observation Date
Yes2016
Yes2014
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention? Show sources
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention?Observation Date
Yes2016
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities? Show sources
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRB) regularly visit immigration-related detention facilities?Observation Date
Yes2014
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections? Show sources
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?Observation Date
Yes2015

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
49,8232014
47,2192013
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
1,1052014
9612011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
4522010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
8.62014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD) Show sources
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in USD)Observation Date
1,3202012
1,4062011
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
24Very high2015

Country Links


Additional Resources


Capitalism and Immigration Control: What Political Economy Reveals about the Growth of Detention Systems: GDP Working Paper #16

Assessments of the political economy of detention point to a key challenge that is common to countries across the globe: how economic insecurities of host population’s translate into xenophobia and ethno-nationalist demands for more deportations, detentions, and walls.

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