In his decision, Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen stated that during 2021 and 2022, the public authorities have at least partly failed to process passport and identity card matters in an appropriate and timely manner. Delays in passport and identity card applications may have had a negative impact on the fundamental right to leave the country.
The Ombudsman has received dozens of complaints on this subject particularly since the beginning of February 2022. At some points, some police departments have not had any unreserved appointments for passport and identity card services in the electronic booking system. In other departments, the earliest available appointments have been several months away. However, it has been possible to access the passport or identity card services by queuing, but it has taken hours at worst.
In his decision, the Ombudsman emphasised that the processing of the matter without delay is a fundamental right and delays in obtaining a passport and an identity card may have negative spill over effects on the exercise of other fundamental rights.
From the perspective of the oversight of legality, the measures taken by the police departments and the National Police Board after observing the congestion and delays in this matter are essential.
The police have reacted to the changing situation in many ways, striving to reduce congestion and to speed up transactions. However, the dramatic increase in the number of applications has obviously been a surprise for which they have not been able to fully prepare. The available workforce has not been sufficient to ensure that the service level could be always considered acceptable.
Congestions and delays have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian war. The events have affected the congestions and delays in surprising ways, and the effects have been hard to predict, at least to some extent.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman has asked the National Police Board to inform him by 31 October 2022 of the impact of the National Police Board's reported measures and the current situation in the service hours of licence services.
The full text of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's decision no 5276/2021 has been published (in Finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at www.oikeusasiamies.fi.