According to the Administrative Procedure Act, the authorities must provide interpretation or translation in cases where the immigrant (or another party) is not proficient in the Finnish or Swedish languages used by the authorities, or the person cannot be understood owing to his or her disability or illness in a case that may be initiated by the authorities. Where possible, the authority in question is also responsible for providing interpretation and translation in other matters related to the obligations and rights of the immigrant.
Interpretation costs are reimbursed by the State
The State reimburses all interpretation costs related to the reception of persons under international protection for several years in cases where interpretation services are used in situations related to the person’s integration.
The State reimburses municipalities for interpretation costs that relate to
- healthcare and social welfare services,
- preparation of the integration plan,
- using integration services offered in the early stage of immigration,
- introduction training in the municipality, and
- cooperation between the school and the early education centre.
On a case-by-case basis, translation costs relating to the above situations are also reimbursed if they have been necessary for facilitating and investigating the integration of the immigrated person.
The law does not specify a time limit for reimbursing the costs of arranging interpretation. However, the need for interpretation is greatest in the early stages of integrating into Finland and decreases as the person’s language skills improves and integration progresses. Costs are no longer reimbursed starting from the date when the person becomes a Finnish citizen.
Interpretation for refugees
The use of an interpreter is recommended whenever persons under international protection deal with local authorities. High-quality interpretation ensure that the needed information is communicated accurately.
If the local residents are quota refugees, their language of communication is usually known in advance, and authorities can prepare by arranging for persons proficient in the language to serve as interpreters. The situation is different for those who move out from reception centres on their own. In these cases, it may take some time to provide interpretation services.
Use of remote interpreting has increased
The interpreter does not necessarily have to be in the same room as the parties involved. Depending on the situation, remote interpreting can be used. Modern communication methods such as phones, video and internet connections make remote interpreting a viable alternative in many situations.
Remote interpreting is also recommended in situations where the availability of the interpreter must be ensured whilst saving on travel time and costs. There are very few interpreters of less common languages in Finland. Arranging for such an interpreter to travel to a location may be difficult. However, it should be noted that interpreting sometimes requires the physical presence of the interpreter.
Remote interpreting has certain special features, as the parties are not in the same room and the client's and interpreter's facial expressions and body language are not conveyed as they would be in person. When remote interpreting is used, it must be ensured that all parties know how to use the technology. Special attention must also be given to audio volume, clear articulation and pauses. If there are several persons in the meeting, turns of speaking must be distributed in a clear way.
Peer group guides help with daily tasks
If there are persons who speak the same language already living in the municipality, they can serve as peer group guides. A peer group guide is not the same as an interpreter. Neighbours or friends can be used as a peer group guide only for taking care of simple, daily errands and tasks, such as shopping for groceries or spending time informally. When dealing with the authorities or at a doctor’s appointment, for example, a professional interpreter is always used.