HAAPA, Finnish for aspen tree, is a project that enhances the placement of highly vulnerable resettled refugees in local municipalities. The project supports the work of local municipalities by granting them funding (from ERF) to facilitate the reception of vulnerable refugees and to develop special services directed to them in the areas of health, psychosocial and educational support. There is one HAAPA coordinator and one secretary who work at the Ministry and with the municipalities. The project targets vulnerable resettled refugees defined as: children and women who are at-risk or are victims (particularly of mental, physical or sexual abuse), people with serious medical needs and children and young people who may be regarded as being vulnerable because of their family position. HAAPA also helps municipalities by training refugee workers in how to give psycho social support and trauma therapy, as well as giving an overview presentation about specific forms of trauma and forms of sexual abuse. Municipalities that receive funding focus their work on the development of a range of healthcare services e.g. mental health, trauma and rehabilitation, psycho-social support, and methods of training for specific groups including women, people with disabilities and those who cannot read or write.
HAAPA was created in response to the lack of local resettlement places and special service models for especially vulnerable resettled refugees. It was also created in order to help municipalities apply for and run ERF projects, as they were not used to dealing with this particular funding and it was therefore underexploited.
Since the project started in February 2010, eleven municipalities, i.e. a third of all municipalities in Finland that accept refugees, are active with HAAPA. Approximately 30 of the 53 urgent resettlement cases accepted in Finland have been placed into HAAPA assisted municipalities.
The main challenge is to get new and more municipalities into the resettlement process. At the same time, negative attitudes towards refugees have been growing and the right wing anti-immigrant party in Finland has had an increase in popularity.