Foreign nationals resident in Helsinki, Finland are frustrated about the current long queue at the immigration service center where all immigration related applications are submitted. Many of them go to queue as early as 4:30 a.m. to be able to submit their documents.
Over 80 people queue in front of the immigration service point each day with only about half getting the chance to submit their documents. There are nine service points all over Finland where documents can be submitted. One service point serves the entire Helsinki region and beyond, which according to some applicants, its not enough. Speaking to our correspondent Ebenezer Bright Doku at the Helsinki service point, a man who wants to remain anonymous (we call him Stephen for the purpose of this story), tells that he has taken absence from work and his son has to stop school for the day since their situation requires both of them to be present at the immigration office. Stephen came to queue around 5.00 a.m. and he did not know at what time he could submit his application.
Up until the beginning of 2017, the Finnish police has been in charge of decisions about residence permits, registration of EU citizens and many other applications. The Finnish Immigration service (Migri) has now taken over all immigration matters for foreign nationals, apart from visa-related matters. This means that approximately 55,000 matters will be transferred yearly to the Finnish Immigration Service from the police.
Migri encourages applicants to book an appointment through an online appointment system. However, because of the limited service points and the current workload of applications on the Immigration service, it is difficult to get an early online appointment. According to Stephen, the earliest appointment time he received through the online booking is due in 3 months. The situation is similar among many foreign nationals who try to book an online appointment. Due to this, many applicants have chosen to queue in front of the office of the service point in the early hours of the morning to get a chance to submit their documents.
Migri acknowledges that not all their customers have been able to find a suitable appointment times because their service points have been busy. They however advice applicants to only come and queue at the service point if their permits will expire within the following 3 months and they are unable to make an online appointment. According to Migri, queues at the service points are only meant for urgent matters and that applicants without appointment will most likely have to queue for a very long time and still not get to handle thier matter during the same day.
According to one of the applicants at the service point, as soon the immigration office is opened at 8.00 in the morning some applicants who have just arrived at the center force themselves to the door, pushing away older people and children who have been queuing since the early hours away from the queue. “There should be some sort of control around here,” she says.
In order to control the queuing order at the service point before the official opening hours, some applicants volunteer to keep list of names in the order in which people had arrived.
However, Migri says it cannot take into account waiting lists that have been created by the customers themselves. Its website states that it only hand out waiting numbers to the persons in the queue when the office is opened.