1 EMN FOCUSSED STUDY Policies, Practices and Data on unaccompanied Minors in 2014 Co-financed by the European Union
2 2 Policies, practices and data on unaccompanied minors in 2014 ISBN (PDF) The EMN has been established by Council Decision 2008/381/EC and is financially supported by the European Union. The objective of the EMN is to meet the information needs of Community institutions and of Member States authorities and institutions by providing up-to-date, objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum, with a view to supporting policymaking in the European Union in these areas. The EMN also serves to provide the general public with such information. Overall responsibility: Senior Adviser Riikka Asa (National Contact Point Finland) Senior Adviser Berit Kiuru (National Contact Point Finland) National coordinator Kielo Brewis (National Contact Point Finland) Available from: European Migration Network Finnish Immigration Service Panimokatu 2a FI HELSINKI, Finland Tel emn(at)migri.fi Layout: OS/G Communications cover picture: Kirijaki
3 3 Table of Contents Top-line factsheet... 2 Section 1: Motivations and circumstances of UAMs for entering the EU... 6 Section 2: Entry and assessment procedures including border controls for asylum-seeking and... non-asylum seeking UAMs... 7 Section 2.1: Documentation required by unaccompanied minors for legal entry to the (Member) State (non-asylum seeking UAMs, but also asylum-seeking UAMs in some instances)... 7 Section 2.2: Circumstances where an unaccompanied minor may be refused at the border (non-asylum seeking UAMs)... 8 Section 2.3: Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors by national authorities (non-asylum seeking UAMs)... 9 Section 2.4: Training of Border Guards and / or Police Authorities Section 2.5: The organisation of the national asylum procedures for asylum-seeking... unaccompanied minors Section 2.6: Guardianship and age assessment for non-asylum seeking UAMs Section 2.7: Residence permits granted to unaccompanied minors (both asylum- and non-asylum seeking UAMs) Section 3: Reception arrangements, including integration measures for UAMs Section 3.1: Reception and care arrangements for unaccompanied minors Section 3.2: Accommodation and other material reception provisions Section 3.3: Access to legal advice Section 3.4: Healthcare Section 3.5: Education Section 3.6: Access to support to employment Section 3.7: Other integration measures Section 3.8: Withdrawal of reception and integration support Section 3.9: Identified challenges and good practices Section 4: UAMs that go missing / abscond from reception / care facilities Section 5: Arrangements in the (Member) States for UAMs when turning 18 years of age Section 6: Return practices, including reintegration of UAMs Annex
4 4 Top-line factsheet NATIONAL CONTRIBUTION OF FINLAND This study by the Finnish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN) focuses on unaccompanied minor third-country nationals (or stateless persons) that may be asylum seekers, persons receiving international protection/issued with a residence permit, victims of trafficking in human beings or persons staying irregularly in the country. The study describes the situation of minors extensively by looking into reception arrangements, disappearances, the effects of coming of age and return, among other things. As far as authorities know, practically all minors who arrive in Finland unaccompanied including victims of trafficking in human beings seek international protection. In 2013, unaccompanied minors filed 161 asylum applications (2012: 166 applications; 2011: 152; 2010: 329, 2009: 557). The number of applications has decreased from the peak years of as a result of changes in the legislation and practices related to family reunification, among other factors. Approximately half of all asylum seekers under 18 years of age that arrive in Finland unaccompanied come from Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. In most cases, these asylum seekers are boys aged years. The reason for leaving the home country is usually a prolonged conflict in the country of departure and general feeling of insecurity. The applications are always processed with urgency; however, the processing time may be influenced by various requests for further clarification and the potential tracing of guardians in the home country. During the asylum process, the age of the asylum seeker is assessed primarily on the basis of documents and registers and by hearing the asylum seeker. A medical age assessment may be necessary if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the reliability of the information provided. Asylum seeking unaccompanied minors are accommodated in group homes or supported living units intended for minors. A client plan and a care and upbringing plan that complements and concretises the client plan are drawn up for the minor. Victims of trafficking in human beings are referred to the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings. In the case of an asylum seeking unaccompanied minor, a representative is appointed without delay. Non-governmental organisations promoting the realisation of children s rights have repeatedly expressed their concern over the representatives competence and suitability to working with children. Efforts have been made to improve the situation through training events provided by the Finnish Immigration Service, for instance. Currently, nearly all unaccompanied minors are issued with continuous (A) residence permits on compassionate grounds during the asylum process if there are no grounds for granting international protection. For instance, in 2013, international protection (asylum or subsidiary protection) was granted to 74 asylum seeking unaccompanied minors and 24 were issued with a residence permit on other, mainly compassionate, grounds. Temporary (B) residence permits have not been issued in years; in this respect, the position of minors has improved. In practice, minor victims of trafficking in human beings have also been issued with continuous residence permits. A municipality of residence is registered for persons receiving international protection, which entitles them to all public health care services in exchange for the municipal resident s client fee. The legislation guarantees equivalent rights to health care services to asylum seeking minors and victims of trafficking in human beings in the National Assistance System. However, in practice there has been variation in the availability of mental health care services. Health care services for persons staying irregularly in Finland (undocumented migrants) are not executed appropriately at the moment: these persons are entitled to urgent medical care, the actual costs of which may be collected in arrears, and other than
5 5 this, their health care relies largely on voluntary activities. In Finland, all children of compulsory school age have the right to basic education. In practice, some municipalities have interpreted the legislation to indicate that the obligation to arrange basic education applies only to persons residing permanently in the municipality, a practice criticised by the Deputy Ombudsman of the Finnish parliament. Municipalities may also voluntarily arrange preparatory instruction for persons with an immigrant background. The aim of this instruction is to promote the student s Finnish/ Swedish skills and integration into Finnish society as well as to provide necessary skills for the transition to basic education. With certain exceptions, the right to work requires a residence permit issued by Finland. However, asylum seekers who are over 15 years of age have a right to work once three months have passed from the entry into the country, provided that the identity of the asylum seeker is clear, and otherwise once six months have passed from the entry into the country. integration only applies to persons who have been issued with a residence permit, and an integration plan is drawn up for them. Legislation makes it possible to remove minors from the country and to detain them. However, in practice, removal is exceptional. A minor can be returned to his/her home country only if it is in his/ her best interests and appropriate reception has been ascertained. Several parties have drawn attention to the challenges related to child welfare. Reception centres sometimes have difficulties in providing asylum seeking unaccompanied minors with access to the municipal child welfare activities. There have also been challenges in cooperation between authorities in the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings and child welfare services. A relatively small number of asylum seeking unaccompanied minors have gone missing (10 minors in 2013), for various reasons and in different stages of the asylum process. In terms of age, missing children tend to be at the upper end of the age range. A couple of disappearance cases have raised suspicion of trafficking in human beings. In case of suspected trafficking in human beings, efforts are made to prevent disappearances by paying particular attention to safety, e.g. by choosing the child s placement location, keeping his/her whereabouts secret and supervising the child s movement. In Finland, a minor is not granted right of residence for a period that would last only until he/she turns 18 years of age, and when a person comes of age, his/her need for international protection/residence permit is not reconsidered. When an asylum seeker comes of age during the process, he/she is included within the reception services intended for adults: he/she no longer has an appointed representative and his/her form of accommodation changes. An independence promotion plan is drawn up at the accommodation unit for a young person who has been issued with a residence permit. This is done well before he/she comes of age. A person coming of age is entitled to after-care until 21 years of age. Official
6 6 Section 1: Motivations and circumstances of UAMs for entering the EU Q1. Please state what the motivations and circumstances of UAMs for entering your (Member) State are and provide further information (please cite existing evaluation reports / studies / other sources or based on information received from UAMs and/ or competent authorities). Possible motivations and circumstances of UAMs for entering the EU may include: Fleeing persecution or serious harm and seeking protection (asylum) Family reunification (e.g. to join family members already in the (Member) State, to apply for asylum followed by family reunification) Join migrant/ diaspora community Economic and aspirational reasons (including education) Transit to another Member State Victims of trafficking in human beings Facilitated illegal entry / smuggled Arrival at external borders Inadequate medical facilities in the country of origin / insufficient funds by parents for medical treatment Abandonment in a Member State (e.g. because parents have been returned / cannot or do not take care of their child in the (Member) State Runaways / drifters UAMs do not know why they have entered the (Member) State UAMs are not able to explain why they have entered the (Member) State (e.g. due to their early age) UAMs are reluctant to report their motivations and circumstances for entering the (Member) State (e.g. due to trauma) Other (please specify) According to the research publication (2011) of All Our Children ry s Yksintulleet project and the Finnish Immigration Service, approximately half of under 18 year old asylum seekers that arrive in Finland unaccompanied come from Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. In most cases, the asylum seeking unaccompanied minor is a boy aged years. The reason for leaving the home country is usually a prolonged conflict in the country of departure and general feeling of insecurity. Common reasons also include physical violence and threats, forced recruitment into armed forces, forced labour and retaliation against their family. As a rule, unaccompanied minors seek asylum immediately after their arrival in Finland. They usually cannot produce identity or travel documents. Due to the lack of legal means of entry into the country, children are forced to turn to smugglers in order to enter Europe. The children s families or relatives pay large sums for smugglers to take the child into a safe country. Unaccompanied minors arrive in Finland through different routes: some have travelled for a couple of days while others have travelled even for years, working en route to finance their journey. As a rule, unaccompanied minors file their asylum applications inland; in some rare cases this takes place at external borders. Usually they are able and willing to give the reason for leaving the home country and the motivation for arriving in Finland to seek asylum. However, the destination of fleeing has not been clear to all children at the time of leaving their home country or even when arriving in Finland. Unaccompanied minors rarely give running away from home as a reason for an asylum application; however, they admit more often than major asylum seekers that their motivation for the entry into the country to be economic reasons and the desire to receive education in Finland.
7 7 Q2. Please provide information on any prevention actions / projects / initiatives that your (Member) State undertakes together with Third Countries with the aim to address the root causes of UAMs migration, for example: Integration of UAMs migration in key areas of development cooperation, e.g. poverty reduction, education, health, employment, human rights, democratisation and post-conflict reconstruction; Targeted awareness-raising activities and training in countries of origin and transit (e.g. aimed at law enforcement officers, border guards, potential victims of trafficking and their communities, children, wider public, etc.); Development of child protection systems. If possible, please provide a short description of the impact of these specific actions / projects / initiatives. Currently, Finland has no campaigns in the countries of departure. Section 2: Entry and assessment procedures including border controls for asylum-seeking and non-asylum seeking UAMs Section 2.1: Documentation required by unaccompanied minors for legal entry to the (Member) State (non-asylum seeking UAMs, but also asylum-seeking UAMs in some instances) Q3. What documents are required by third-country national UAMs at the border to fulfil the entry requirements to the (Member) State? Entry documents required by unaccompanied minors Visa permitting entry and stay Passport Travel documents Other (please state) Please provide more information about the types of documents required and the conditions that apply, with a particular focus on developments since When arriving in Schengen States, a citizen of a country within the scope of the visa requirement must have a passport or other travel document that must be valid for a minimum of three months after the planned departure from the Schengen region. The travel document must be issued during the last ten years. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs decided on a country-by-country basis which documents are acceptable. The European Commission maintains a list of travel documents that are accepted by the Schengen Member States, entitle the holder to cross the external borders and enable the issuing of a visa. If on the list of accepted documents. Please state if the process is different for those cases when the minor s age is doubtful (for instance, when the child has no documents) and the age assessment procedure has not been undertaken yet to determine the age of the minor. No visas are issued without a document indicating the applicant s identity.
8 8 Section 2.2: Circumstances where an unaccompanied minor may be refused at the border (non-asylum seeking UAMs) Q4. Can a non-asylum seeking unaccompanied minor be refused entry at the border if they do not fulfil the entry requirements set out above? Categories of unaccompanied minors that may be refused entry at the border Non-asylum seeking unaccompanied minor arriving at a land / sea border or airport Asylum seeking unaccompanied minor arriving at a land / sea border or airport Asylum seeking unaccompanied minor arriving at an internal authority (e.g. police, child protection service, etc.) Other (please state) Please provide more information about the circumstances under which unaccompanied minors may be refused entry at the border: a) in national legislation / policy and b) in practice, with a particular focus on developments since Section 148 of the Aliens Act includes provisions on the grounds for refusal of entry that can be applied to both refusal of entry at the border and removal from the country. In practice, these grounds can be applied by the Finnish Border Guard in connection with both entry and exit checks (as well as in monitoring of aliens within the country). Section 148 of the Aliens Act regulates the grounds for refusal of entry. According to its Subsection 1, an alien may be refused entry into the country if the grounds for refusal of entry indicated in the section exist. In border checks, the primary regulation to be applied in case of an alien entering the country is the Schengen Borders Code and in case of refusal of entry the SBC s Article 13. Cf. Aliens Act, Section 142. All asylum applications are received and examined. If an asylum seeker who enters the country as an unaccompanied minor does not meet the requirements referred to in the Aliens Act for being granted a residence permit, the child may only be returned to his or her home country if appropriate reception in that country can be ensured. This helps protect the continuity of protection and care essential to the child s welfare. In evaluating the appropriateness of reception in the child s home country, the receiving party may be the child s parents or other de facto guardian, such as a relative. The conditions for a child s return are assessed as part of the asylum process. In case of an asylum seeking minor, circumstances in the host country must always be assessed with particular care. In addition, the realisation of the child s best interests must still be assessed before the enforcement of the removal from the country. When preparing the enforcement of the decision on refusal of entry, the authority responsible for enforcement must communicate with the child s representative and the personnel at the group home responsible for the child s accommodation. The enforcement process must take into account the child s best interests, the child s age and the possibility of having the child s support person, such as a dedicated caregiver, counsellor or other social worker, present. See above. Please state if the process is different for those cases when the minor s age is doubtful (for instance, when the child has no documents) and the age assessment procedure has not been undertaken yet to determine the age of the minor. Removal from the country will not be enforced if there are reasonable grounds to assume that the person in question is incapable of sustaining him-/herself due to being a minor.
9 9 Section 2.3: Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors by national authorities (non-asylum seeking UAMs) Q5. Please describe the national rules and procedures that apply where a non-asylum seeking unaccompanied minor is apprehended / identified at the border and within the territory of the (Member) State. Please note that reception and care arrangements are covered in Section 3. Almost without exception, unaccompanied minor third-country nationals arrive in Finland escorted by smugglers or sometimes in the company of their relatives. In most cases, a minor comes to a police station him-/herself to file an asylum application, with the aim of regularising his/her residence in Finland in this way. Previously, unaccompanied minor EU citizens (Bulgarian or Romanian Roma) who had come to Finland to beg were encountered inland. The instructions that the authorities have are mainly related to these children but are also applicable to third-country nationals. In recent years, young North Africans who are almost of age and residing in Finland illegally have also been encountered in Finland. After being exposed to the authorities, they have sought asylum in order to regularise their residence. Border guards must pay particular attention to them regardless of whether they travel with an adult or alone. In connection with the exit from and entry into the country, minors crossing an external border must be checked in the same manner as adults. In case of a minor travelling with an adult, the border guard must check whether the adult is the guardian of the minor, especially when the minor is accompanied by only one adult and there is weighty grounds to suspect that the minor has been illegally taken from his/her legal guardian(s). In the latter case, the border guard must conduct an additional investigation in order to determine if the information provided is inconsistent or conflicting. In case of an unaccompanied minor, border guards must check the travel documents and other relevant documents thoroughly to ensure that the minor does not leave the region against his/her guardian s (guardians ) will. Border guards try to check the minor s identity, after which they contact social welfare authorities. If a police officer encounters an unaccompanied minor while performing his/her official duties, the first step is to try to establish the minor s identity and whether the requirements for residence in the country are met. In order to carry out their duties, the police are entitled to obtain details about the name, date of birth and nationality of a person. The identity of an alien can be verified in any situation in order to carry out duties falling within the scope of the police s competencies. After interviewing a minor, if it is clear that his/her guardian is not present, the police contacts the social welfare on-call number to agree on further actions. Furthermore, social services make preparations for actions necessary to help the child, as defined in the Child Welfare Act. For instance, if a child has to stay overnight outdoors in the cold, a situation may arise in which child welfare authorities must take measures for providing shelter for the child. Child welfare needs are related to the fundamental rights of a child, such as accommodation, sufficient nutrition and clothing. As a supportive measure for open care, a child can be placed in a children s home for a short period of time. If this cannot be done and if the child s circumstances immediately endanger his/her health and development, the child must be placed involuntarily with a decision on emergency placement. The starting point is that emergency placement is always a temporary measure. When operating in these situations, the possibility of violence towards children or child abduction must be taken into account. When it comes to obtaining the correct personal identification details (e.g. the person has no documents with him/her, it is impossible to establish the date of birth or it is suspected that the adult is not the child s parent/guardian), social welfare authorities cooperate with the police. If social welfare authorities have met the child before the police, they contact the police emergency number to get a police patrol on site. In these cases, the police establishes the person s identity and whether the requirements for residence in the country are met.
10 10 Section 2.4: Training of Border Guards and / or Police Authorities Q6a. Does the (Member) State provide specific training to Border Guards and / or Police Authorities to recognise the situation of unaccompanied minors who try to enter the territory illegally / are apprehended within the territory, or who may be the victims of trafficking in human beings / smuggling? Y/N Yes Q6b. If yes, please provide further information below, stating also if this has involved cooperation with EU agencies. Yes. NB: Practically all minors who arrive in Finland unaccompanied and are exposed to the authorities seek international protection at the latest when encountered by the authorities. Consequently, the responses to Question 7 also apply to this question. Training on the identification of trafficking in human beings is organised for different authorities: The Finnish Border Guard uses the training programme developed by Frontex (Anti-trafficking training for border guards) to train border guards. The programme includes three sections: 1. general information on trafficking in human beings, 2. identification of victims of trafficking in human beings and 3. interviewing (interrogation) of victims of trafficking in human beings. As for the identification of child victims, the training programme takes their identification with the aid of different case-specific indicators into account. Frontex s training programme has been implemented into the curricula of the Border and Coast Guard Academy, and after 2013, the basic and further border guard training has included training on trafficking in human beings in accordance with the training programme mentioned above. The training duration varies from course to course (4 12 hours). Training on trafficking in human beings has also been organised according to the training programme mentioned above as on-the-job training at border crossing points. Currently, there is only one socalled national trainer trained by Frontex in Finland. In 2014, the Border and Coast Guard Academy will train two more national trainers in order to be able to invest more in organising on-the-job training in future. The police s Diploma in Police Studies curriculum includes the monitoring of aliens and as an associated topic the basic concepts of illegal entry and trafficking in human beings. In the training for the Diploma in Police Studies, this means three hours of classroom training on detection of trafficking in human beings and the police s initial actions in cases of trafficking in human beings. The police officers receive additional training in the Police Sergeant training, in which trafficking in human beings is included in the Fundamentals of operative management module. In the Bachelor in Police Command training, trafficking in human beings is included as a theme in several different modules, in which the Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings working at the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities acts as a guest lecturer. Questions pertaining to trafficking in human beings and illegal entry are discussed actively in the seminars, news bulletins and statistics of the illegal entry network (LAMA), which is maintained by the National Police Board. The exchange of information in the network is constant and efficient, and cooperation with the Finnish Border Guard in cases involving illegal entry and trafficking in human beings is also intensive. The Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings working at the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities provides training and lectures on trafficking in human beings as well as on related legislation and phenomena. On 14 October 2010, the Finnish Immigration Service issued guidelines (record number: 91/0032/2010) about the procedure in cases in which a person seeking international protection in Finland is a potential victim of trafficking in human beings. The guidelines particularly discuss the procedure in cases in which, according to the Council s Dublin II Regulation 343/2003, Finland would not be responsible for examining the asylum application lodged by a potential victim of trafficking in human beings.
11 11 In addition, there is an Anti-trafficking Specialist working at the Finnish Immigration Service, who provides training to the Finnish Immigration Service personnel on the identification of trafficking in human beings. Section 2.5: The organisation of the national asylum procedures for asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors Q7. Please set out the national rules and procedures that apply where an unaccompanied minor apprehended / identified at the border and within the territory of the (Member) State lodges an application for asylum (e.g. which authority(ies) the minor is referred to, at what point an application is made, etc.). The asylum process in Finland is regulated by the Aliens Act. An asylum application must be filed in person (Section 8 of the Aliens Act) with the police or the border control authority. The asylum application must be filed upon arrival in the country or as soon after that as possible. The application can be filed later, too, if the circumstances in the alien s home country or country of permanent residence have changed during his/her residence in Finland or if the alien is only later on able to present an account to support his/her application or if there are other reasonable grounds. Upon the reception of an asylum application, particular attention must be paid to unaccompanied minors because a representative is appointed for them only after the application is filed. When a young person seeks asylum, the police or the Border Guard must pay particular attention to establishing and recording the asylum seeker s age as a part of the establishment of his/her identity. In order to arrange accommodation for the asylum seeker, contact will be made with the Espoo Group Home which coordinates the reception of unaccompanied minors in Finland. The reception centre files an application for the appointment of a representative. If an asylum seeking minor is placed in detention, the representative of social welfare authorities shall be heard before detention (Aliens Act, Section 122). If the child has been appointed a representative, he/she shall be provided with an opportunity to be heard. In Finland, the asylum investigation consists of two stages. The police or the Border Guard that received the application conducts the early-stage asylum interrogation to establish the person s identity, entry into the country and itinerary. After this, the Finnish Immigration Service establishes the grounds of the asylum application and makes a decision in the case. Q8. Please describe the specific rules and procedures that apply in respect of the (asylum) applicant s status as an (unaccompanied) minor. Please indicate, for example: Whether and when a legal guardian is appointed; Whether and when an asylum interview(s) is conducted. Appointment of a representative According to Section 39 Subsection 1 of the Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection, a representative is appointed without delay for a child that is applying for international protection and a child granted temporary protection status and a child that is a victim of trafficking in human beings and has not been issued with a residence permit if the child in question is staying in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative. 1 The application for a representative is filed by the group home in which the asylum seeking unaccompanied minor has been registered as a 1 According to Section 56, Subsection 1 of the Act on the Promotion of Immigration Integration, a representative shall be appointed without delay for a child that has been issued with a residence permit under a refugee quota and a child that is a victim of trafficking in human beings and has a residence permit if the child in question is residing in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative. Representatives may also be appointed for other children that have been issued with a residence permit and that are residing in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative.