How does a person end up living in a country undocumented?

Kuvitus: Warda Ahmed

Illustration: Warda Ahmed

Examples of how a person may end up living in Finland undocumented:

  • after a negative asylum decision
  • after a negative residence permit decision
  • after the expiry of a visa or residence permit
  • if a residence permit has not been applied for.

Persons whose position is similar to that of undocumented migrants in that they are not entitled to social and healthcare services despite their right to reside in Finland, include:

  • people waiting for a residence permit in Finland for reasons of employment or family connection, for example.
  • EU residents who are not entitled to social security in their home country or have no private health insurance
  • citizens of third countries with a residence permit in another EU country
  • foreign students whose health insurance has expired or provides insufficient coverage
  • people who had a visa upon entry but no comprehensive health insurance.

Undocumented migrants living in Finland are a diverse group

The phenomenon covers a group of very different people and backgrounds. People from all walks of life are living in Finland undocumented: grandmothers, families with children, men, women and expectant mothers. For some people, being undocumented may be the best of many bad options. Some may fear for their safety in their home country, while others want to live in the same country with their loved ones. Many would like to work in Finland but are prevented by the strict requirements of the legislation on foreigners. Almost all undocumented migrants would like to legalise their residence and live a normal life as part of the Finnish society.

The day-to-day life of an undocumented migrant is marked by constant uncertainty about the future. Many are afraid of getting caught and so they avoid the authorities. Since undocumented migrants living in Finland are not able to turn to the authorities the same way as official residents, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and many kinds of mistreatment. Undocumented migrants are not fully covered by the basic services of society, so are completely dependent on their employers or spouses and social networks.