Social security and services of asylum seekers in Finland

People applying for asylum in Finland have the right to get reception services which safeguard their necessary financial support and care.  This right to get services continues through the processing of the asylum application.

Services for asylum seekers at reception centres

The reception centres operate under the guidance of the Immigration Service and organise the necessary reception services. The reception services include accommodation, reception allowance or spending allowance, any necessary social and health services, interpretation and translation services as well as work and training activities. Also meals can be provided as part of the reception services.

Social and health services at reception centres

The reception centres are responsible for asylum seekers' social and health services. In practice, the social welfare and healthcare services are purchased from municipalities and private enterprises.

  • All asylum seekers undergo basic health examination and screening for infectious diseases at reception centres.
  • An asylum seeker has the right to receive such social welfare services that a social welfare professional assesses to be necessary (advice, guidance,  dealing with social problems).
  • Adult asylum seekers are entitled to urgent healthcare services. They also have the right to receive such health care services that a health care professional assesses to be necessary.
  • Minor asylum seekers are entitled to the same healthcare services as local people.
  • Children under 7 years receive health and development screening at child health clinics, and all children are vaccinated. Also vulnerable persons (older persons, pregnant women, persons with disability, persons with long-term illnesses, traumatised persons) receive the health services they need.

Is it possible that asylum seekers bring infectious diseases to Finland?

The fast-increasing number of asylum seekers can increase the occurrence of infectious diseases in Finland, for example measles, tuberculosis, polio and diphteria. According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finns are generally very well protected against these diseases. However, in some municipalities the vaccination coverage against measles has decreased.

Municipalities' social and health services for those who have been granted residence permit

An asylum seeker who has been granted a residence permit settles in a Finnish municipality. He or she is then covered by the same public social and health services as the other inhabitants of the municipality. Unaccompanied minors move to municipal family group homes, supported or independent housing or private accommodation.

Costs of social welfare and healthcare services organised for asylum seekers

The Ministry of the Interior's branch of government is responsible for the costs for as long as the asylum seeker stays in a reception centre.  Persons in the process of applying for asylum are not yet covered by public social security or municipalities' social and health services.

If the asylum seeker gets a residence permit, his or her new home municipality will receive formula-based reimbursement during three years. The share of inhabitants with immigrant background among the whole population of the municipality affects the amount of central government transfers to the municipality concerned. This depends on the so called foreign language coefficient that increases the central government transfers to the municipality.

Additionally, during three years' time the municipality receives reimbursement for the integration assistance and income support the municipality has paid, for the interpretation services they have organised, and for some specific costs. The reimbursement is EUR 2 300 per year as regards persons over 7 years of age, and EUR 6 845 in case of children under 7 years. As regards quota refugees, the reimbursements to municipalities for their services and support will continue for four years.

Social security of asylum seekers

Persons in the process of applying for asylum cannot be granted benefits from the Finnish Social Insurance Institution Kela.  Kela's social security, based on residence, covers all people permanently living in Finland. If an asylum seeker is granted a residence permit,  he or she becomes entitled to benefits from Kela or municipalities.

Residence-based benefits include minimum pension security (for example national pension), social assistance during illness or disability, as well as support for families for costs related to children.

Who is an asylum seeker?

  • An immigrant usually means a foreign citizen who has moved to Finland and intends to live here for a longer time. An immigrant can sometimes also refer to a person who has been born in Finland but whose parent or both parents have moved to Finland (so called second-generation immigrant).
  • An asylum seeker is a person who has fled from his or her own country due to persecution and applies for international protection and a right to residence in another country.
  • A refugee is, according to the UN Refugee Convention, a person having a well-founded fear of being persecuted in his or her own country. According to the Convention's definition, war, natural disaster or poverty are not causes of refugeeism. In Finland also those people are called refugees who are allowed to stay in the country because of their need for protection or for humanitarian reasons. A quota refugee is a person with a refugee status granted in accordance with the UN definition and who belongs to the refugee quota of the country of reception.
  • With regard to social security and social and health services, an asylum seeker who has been granted a residence permit is in the same position as any inhabitant of the municipality.

Additional information

Further information

Henna Leppämäki, Senior Specialist 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Clients and Services in Healthcare and Social Welfare / APO, Service System Unit / PAL 0295163132  

Marika Lahtivirta, Legal Adviser 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Clients and Services in Healthcare and Social Welfare / APO, Service System Unit / PAL 0295163605