Who is a refugee?

A refugee is a person with refugee status. This status is granted to those who gain asylum in Finland or are accepted into the country in the refugee quota.

Quota refugees

You cannot apply to become a quota refugee (kiintiöpakolainen) through Finnish officials. Nor is it possible to suggest another person, such as a friend or a relative, as a quota refugee.

Finland accepts as quota refugees persons who are considered refugees by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. Quota refugees are selected from among the persons proposed to Finland by the UNHCR.

Finnish authorities interview the refugees proposed by the UNHCR and, on the basis of these interviews, select the persons who will be admitted to Finland. The interviews are performed in the refugees’ countries of residence, usually in refugee camps or the UNHCR’s premises.

For example, the following issues influence the selection of quota refugees:

  • a refugee requires international protection
  • a refugee’s human rights are not realised in the country where they are residing
  • a refugee is not a threat to Finland’s security
  • a refugee has the requirements to become integrated into Finnish society.

Some of the refugees are selected without an interview on the basis of UNHCR’s documents. They are usually urgent cases, i.e. refugees who need asylum urgently, for example, for political or health-related reasons.

The Parliament of Finland decides how many refugees are accepted into the country. From 2001, Finland’s refugee quota has been 750 persons per year. The Ministry of the Interior decides on the countries from which quota refugees are accepted.

Granting refugee status to asylum seekers

You can also receive refugee status if you apply for asylum in Finland. An asylum seeker can be granted refugee status if they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their native country for reasons of origin, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or having a political opinion and, for this reason, are unable to return to their native country.

An asylum seeker who is not granted a refugee status can, however, receive a residence permit for Finland on some other grounds.

Read more on the InfoFinland web page Coming to Finland as an asylum seeker.

linkkiFinnish Immigration Service:
Information on the selection of quota refugeesFinnish | Swedish | English

Family reunification

The family members of a refugee can also receive a residence permit for Finland. The law defines the eligible family members. Only these family members can receive a residence permit based on a family tie.

In Finland, the following are considered family members:

  • husband or wife
  • a partner in a registered partnership
  • common-law husband or wife
  • a child under the age of 18 who is not married
  • the guardian of a child under the age of 18

In some cases, a refugee is required to have sufficient income to support his or her family members in Finland for those family members to receive a residence permit. More information on family reunification can be found on the InfoFinland page Moving to Finland to be with a family member.

Assistance for family reunification

If you have come to Finland as a quota refugee, the Finnish Immigration Service may reimburse the costs caused by your family member’s trip to the country. However, the costs are reimbursed only if the family tie existed before you received your first residence permit for Finland. The travel costs of other family members will not be reimbursed.

Refugees outside the quota cannot receive compensation for the travel costs of their family members.

The Finnish Red Cross assists quota refugees in travel arrangements

The Finnish Immigration Service will only reimburse the travel expenses in the event that the family member in question travels to Finland by means organised by the Finnish Red Cross or the International Organisation for Migration.

The Finnish Red Cross assists in organising the journey of the family members of a quota refugee to Finland once the family members have been granted a residence permit. The Red Cross also provides counselling on matters relating to the rules of family reunification and what family members need to do in order to apply for family reunification.

When the Finnish Immigration Service has made a positive decision on your application based on family ties and has resolved that the state can finance your family members’ journey, it supplies a copy of the decision to the Red Cross. If you arrived in Finland as a quota refugee and you want the Finnish state to finance your family members’ journey, contact the Red Cross’ preparedness unit and they will begin to organise the journey. The Finnish Red Cross cannot provide financial assistance for family members’ plane tickets or other travel costs.

linkkiFinnish Immigration Service:
Applying for a residence permit on the basis of family tiesFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiFinnish Immigration Service:
Family member of a refugeeFinnish | Swedish | English

Tracing a lost relative

If you want to make contact with a lost relative, you can ask the Finnish Red Cross’s Tracing Services for help. The Red Cross helps families separated by catastrophes or crisis situations. The Red Cross searches for lost relatives and delivers messages in crisis areas.

linkkiFinnish Red Cross:
Tracing a lost relativeFinnish | Swedish | English | French | Somali

linkkiFinnish Red Cross:
Tracing a lost relativeFinnish | Swedish | English | Russian | Somali | Spanish | Persian | Arabic | Portuguese


If you have come to Finland as a quota refugee, you have a municipality of residence in Finland and you are entitled to use public health services.

Support for refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers can find help and guidance in legal questions, for example, at the Refugee Advice Centre or Legal Aid Offices (oikeusaputoimisto). The Refugee Advice Centre provides asylum seekers with legal aid at the initial stage of the asylum process. It also gives general legal advice to other foreigners.

The Legal Aid Offices provide persons living in Finland with expert help in dealing with legal matters. In managing legal matters, it is possible to get a legal adviser funded partly or completely by public funds.

The Finnish Refugee Council (Suomen Pakolaisapu ry) is an organisation that strives to promote refugees’ basic rights. This organisation performs communication, educational and social work in Finland. The Refugee Council helps refugees and immigrants, for example, in matters relating to integration, housing and founding their own organisations.

linkkiFinnish Refugee Council:
Support for refugeesFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiRefugee Advice Centre:
Legal aid for refugeesFinnish | English