Elina Hienola -Social Worker at the Immigrant Services of the city of Jyväskylä, Finland

Read the following interview with Elina Hienola to find out more about resettlement in the city of Jyväskylä. 

For those who aren't familiar with Jyvaskyla, can you tell us a bit about the city and the people that live here?

Jyväskylä is the seventh biggest city in Finland (located in the middle of Finland) with a population of around 178,000. There are around 3,500 foreigners with over 110 different nationalities living in this city.

Municipalities voluntarily agree to resettle a specific number of refugees each year. How many refugees are resettled in Jyvaskyla every year?

Jyväskylä has made a political decision to resettle 50 refugees a year. That includes only quota refugees. In addition to that, Jyväskylä welcomes about 10-20 asylum seekers a year who have been granted a residence permit.

Could you describe the decision making process involved in placing resettled refugees in your city? How do you decide where refugees will live, and who's involved in that process?

When we receive the information about the refugees who are coming to our city (family size, ages etc.) we inform the city’s housing company, who in turn advises which apartments are available. Our office (Immigrant Services of the City of Jyväskylä) signs a lease with the company before the refugees actually arrive in Finland. After the refugees arrive, our office then leases the apartments to the refugees. Where the apartments are located is something we can only do a little about. It mainly depends on where the housing company has apartments available at that precise moment.

Finland allocates 100 cases from the national quota of 750 for emergency and urgent submissions. How many emergency resettlement cases does Jyväskylä accept?

Jyväskylä accepts ca. 10 emergency cases per year.

Can you describe the types of profiles (such as medical cases, women at risk, victims of torture) that you receive as emergency cases?

Over the years, we have accepted all kinds of emergency cases, such as medical cases, women at risk, and victims of torture. When we are offered an emergency case, we assess and consider if our city can offer the services and the health care the case needs. That is the only criterion we use when considering if we accept the case or not.

How many Syrian refugees will be resettled to Jyväskylä this year?

The refugees to be resettled to Jyväskylä (50) have already been determined and will not include Syrian refugees this year. 

Why does your city accept emergency and vulnerable cases? What integration services and support do you have in place for these cases?

Finland is committed to resettle vulnerable and emergency cases, and we feel we want to help the people who need it the most. For emergency and vulnerable cases we offer the same basic integration services as for all the other cases. In addition to that, we have in Jyväskylä, for example, a crisis centre for those who have been sexually assaulted (Tukinainen), and we also refer cases to special services, such as services for disabled people. We also do an individual integration plan for everyone, even for elderly people and those who are for some reason outside the labour force (disabled, stay-at-home-moms).

What advice would you give to other cities or towns in Europe that are thinking about receiving resettled refugees? What are the main things they should think about and prepare for?

As a social worker, I would advise and remind people that refugees are always individuals with their own backgrounds, own expectations and own strengths. By doing an individual immigration plan for each person, it gives you the opportunity to concentrate on that specific client and his/her challenges and strengths related to integration. We also conduct a psycho-social interview at the beginning, which helps us get to know our clients and to be able to offer them the services they need the most in order to feel welcome and to help them find their way in their new environment.

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