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Persons in need of international protection could be admitted on grounds of work or studies – Finland explores the possibilities of testing the model

Ministry of the Interior
12.11.2021 12.07
Press release 143/2021

At the initiative of the Ministry of the Interior, the Finnish Government commissioned a study examining the types of complementary pathways for legal migration available in different countries for use by people in need of international protection. The focus of the study was on labour-based and study-based complementary pathways. The results confirm that there is a need for legal pathways, as has been discussed in Finland, and they support the EU in seeking new solutions to migration.

Examples of labour-based and study-based complementary pathways include recruitment channels and scholarship programmes, through which people in need of international protection can be admitted as workers and students, rather than as asylum seekers or quota refugees. The routes are referred to as complementary because they are not meant to substitute the refugee resettlement systems of different countries but rather complement them. Their purpose is to enable legal and safe admission. 

Complementary pathways combine humanitarian admission and competence-based migration

The study shows that so far the labour-based or study-based complementary pathways in use in different countries are just isolated programmes and experiments. However, their number is growing rapidly, and complementary pathways have the potential of meeting the needs of both those qualifying for the arrangement and the host countries. In some cases, complementary pathways have helped countries address their shortage of healthcare labour.

In Finland, too, the population is ageing and the proportion of working-age people is decreasing. The Government is using many ways to improve the economic dependency ratio. In future, complementary pathways could be a part of this set of tools. In addition, they could help people in need of protection to integrate into Finland.

“Humanitarian admission and competence-based migration are not mutually exclusive, and it is possible that those who need protection possess the kind of skills we need in Finland. It is always better for people who settle here that they are active members of society from the very start as employees or students, for example. Many asylum seekers have said the same,” says Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo.

At present, Finland offers protection to persons in need of international protection by admitting them as asylum seekers or quota refugees.

EU encourages Member States to develop complementary pathways

The European Commission issued a communication on a new pact on migration and asylum in 2020. It highlights the importance of developing complementary pathways to legal migration as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Commission also issued a separate recommendation on legal pathways to protection. It urges Member States to explore the possibilities of admitting those in need of international protection for labour purposes or for studies and encourages countries to share their experiences. 

The Finnish Government is developing a system of legal pathways in accordance with its Programme. The first step is to carefully examine the research results. When exploring the possibilities of testing complementary pathways in Finland, the Government must analyse the existing legislation and permit practices together with stakeholders from different administrative branches and from business and higher education.

It is essential to examine how complementary pathways could go together with the general objectives of Finland’s migration policy. The Ministry of the Interior has recently set up a project to conduct a preliminary study concerning the needs for amendments in the Aliens Act and how the reform should be implemented. Another project is under way to determine the long-term objectives for Finland’s comprehensive migration policy.

Study supports joint EU efforts

The research team consisted of experts from the Rehabilitation Foundation, Oxford Research AB and the Migration Institute of Finland, along with an independent researcher, Dr Joanne van Selm, who specialises in migration and refugee matters. The steering group of the research project included representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The research report was drawn up in English so that other countries, too, can make use of the information produced. Therefore, it will support the EU Member States’ joint efforts to find new solutions to migration.

Finland has been at the forefront earlier and has striven to serve the international community with its reports on pathways to legal migration. A report commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment was completed this spring discussing community-sponsored integration of quota refugees where sponsors complement the integration work carried out by the authorities. The report was published in both Finnish and English.


Elina Johansson, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488615, [email protected]
Milja Henttonen, Special Adviser, tel. +358 50 599 3094, [email protected] (requests for interviews with Minister Ohisalo)

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