Once the refugees have received a residence permit and moved to the municipality, they are local residents and entitled to the same services as other residents. The municipality must ensure that the services it provides are also suitable for refugees.
Refugees have been forced to flee persecution and conflict. In addition to services that support integration, many of them will need help in areas such as managing trauma. However, refugees are a diverse group: they arrive in Finland from various circumstances and have varying support needs and skills.
Co-operation helps refugees to access services
Municipalities must review the individual service needs of everyone who arrives in the municipality as a refugee. It is important for professionals encountering refugees to know the processes and background factors related to immigration and refugees, in order to refer them to services and activities that meet their needs. Municipalities must ensure that their staff are competent in matters concerning refugees and integration.
Co-operation between authorities as part of refugee hosting reduces the overlapping management of cases and clarifies the roles of operators. A multidisciplinary team or operating model can take a holistic view of the customer's circumstances. Data transfer with the client's permission enables smooth communication between the sectors and when employees change.
The initial reception of quota refugees and other internationally protected persons is often the responsibility of municipal social services. Key partners include healthcare, other social services, schools, day care, youth services, sports services and labour administration. In addition, interpreters, peer support workers and third-sector organisations offering diverse low-threshold activities are important collaboration partners. It is therefore important for the municipality to be familiar with the activities of the organisations in the region.
The municipality should also plan and monitor the hosting in multidisciplinary co-operation as, for example, part of the municipality's integration programme.
Refugees need support especially during the early stages of arrival
Internationally protected persons can arrive in the municipality as quota refugees or through the asylum procedure from reception centres, as agreed with the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the municipality. An asylum seeker who has been granted a residence permit can also move from the reception centre to a municipality independently.
People arriving in municipalities from reception centres through the asylum procedure already have some experience of living in Finland, but they often need advice and guidance.
Quota refugees always arrive in a municipality subject to an agreement. The municipality must arrange housing for quota refugees and those who have received a residence permit through the asylum procedure and have been assigned a municipal placement. It may take months for a group of quota refugees to arrive, usually due to formalities related to leaving their country of origin. It is therefore advisable to keep the arrangements as flexible as possible.
The activities offered by organisations, such as volunteer mentoring or other low-threshold activities, provide crucial hosting support as soon as the refugees have arrived.
Early-stage services include health checks, initial assessment and the drawing up of an integration plan
Once the refugees have arrived in the municipality, they will have initial health checks. An initial assessment is carried out with adult quota refugees and those who have arrived from reception centres, either by the municipality or by the public employment and business services, the TE Office. Since most people who have been granted international protection do not have Finnish or Swedish language skills and rarely have immediate access to employment, a personal integration plan is drawn up for them after the initial assessment.
In the early stages, internationally protected people usually need an interpreter who enables them to deal with municipal authorities. If the new residents are quota refugees, the language they use is usually known and interpretation can be arranged in advance. For those who move independently from reception centres, it will likely take time to determine which language should be used in communications and when interpreters are available.
State reimburses municipalities for the hosting of refugees
The State reimburses the costs of interpretation and translation services related to the hosting of refugees, and for the costs arising from matters such as the initial assessments and the social assistance for persons entitled to it.
From new arrivals to permanent residents
In addition to high-quality services, the integration of new residents requires open and receptive approaches and attitudes. It is important to support encounters between local residents and to carry out work that promotes equality and openness in the municipality.
Permanent settling of beneficiaries of international protection in the municipality is supported by:
- high-quality integration services
- opportunities for studying and employment
- genuine experience of belonging to the local community.
Municipalities should also introduce permanent settling models that have been proven to work in other municipalities. Many municipalities co-operate in organising the hosting of refugees and share their good practices.
State compensation to municipalities (in Finnish and Swedish)