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All children who are in Finland are protected, including children seeking asylum

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 6.3.2018 11.03 | Published in English on 3.4.2018 at 14.32

All children have a right to protection, no matter whether they are born in Finland or somewhere else.

Children arriving to Finland as asylum seekers will receive most of the health and social services they need through reception centres. Even group homes and support accommodation units for children are reception centres. When providing social services, the work requires the utmost tact. Measures must be sufficient but as mild as possible unless the interests of the child requires otherwise. If a child has arrived in Finland together with his or her parents, the parents seeking asylum shall get support for their child upbringing. It must be ensured that if the child protection measures cause any adverse consequences to the child and his or her family, the consequences remain as small as possible.

If it is noticed that a child seeking asylum needs child protection measures, the relevant municipality is responsible for organising the child protection.

The municipality and the personnel of the reception centre will together assess the need for child protection, following the principles of child protection in general and even otherwise in compliance with the Child Welfare Act. The Child Welfare Act does not only apply to persons permanently living in Finland. Its obligations are as strong even in situations where a child is temporarily staying in Finland or seeking asylum. The relevant municipality is entitled to invoice the reception centre for the costs incurred by child protection measures for a child seeking asylum.

In some reception centre regions, people have been uncertain which operator is obliged to provide child protection services to minor asylum seekers. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has therefore published a news release on the matter to municipalities (Kuntainfo in Finnish). There is also a Handbook for Child Protection (available in Finnish) providing information on asylum seekers as child protection clients.

Children seeking asylum are often fleeing war, persecution, torture, violence, discrimination or abuse or have been forced to witness such things.

A child in need of child protection may have experienced matters that a child should never experience. Children seeking asylum are often fleeing war, persecution, torture, violence, discrimination or abuse or have been forced to witness such things. They have probably lost many family members and friends. They may have had a heavy and multi-staged journey to Finland. In addition, they are confronting a totally new country and culture here. It is no wonder if some of these children have severe symptoms.

The reception system is responding rather well to the needs of children and families but reception centres should not be left alone with the most difficult situations. Studying profoundly the best interests of the child may help adults to make decisions even in cases where the needs of the child seem to conflict with the interests of his or her parents or other adults.

Children’s right to protection and care that is necessary for their wellbeing is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The importance of the Convention in child protection duties is described briefly in the Finnish quality recommendations for child protection. A programme to address child and family services, which is connected to the ongoing healthcare and social welfare reform, is one way to make children's rights visible in Finland. Children's rights are, however, not a matter of just one Government term, project or person. Children's rights oblige all adults.

It is clear that we, as society, must ensure the wellbeing of all children in Finland. It is a duty of both you and me.

Marjo Malja

Senior Ministerial Adviser, Social Affairs

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