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Minister: Finland should consider accepting more Syrian refugees

Finland currently hosts about 100 refugees who have fled internal conflict in Syria. This represents a minute proportion of the 1.4 million whom the United Nations says are fugitives of the violence.

Kehitysministeri Heidi Hautala (vihr.) taloustoimittajien vieraana Helsingissä 25. helmikuuta 2013.
Kehitysministeri Heidi Hautala (vihr.) taloustoimittajien vieraana Helsingissä 25. helmikuuta 2013. Image: Jarno Mela / Lehtikuva

International Development Minister Heidi Hautala says Finland should consider temporarily increasing the number of Syrian refugees it shelters. The issue was raised by Green League parliamentarian Satu Haapanen during parliamentary question time Thursday.

"I believe that Finland should think about whether we also have the option of providing temporary protection here in Finland," Hautala responded.

Hautala reminded lawmakers that Finland has allocated more than eight million euros in financial aid to help refugees and is prepared to grant an additional two million. It is estimated that it would take about one billion euros to address the current refugee problem.

Worst humanitarian crisis this century

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja described the situation in Syria as the worst humanitarian crisis this century has seen.

The UN's refugee agency has estimated that so far 1.4 million Syrians have escaped from the country's civil conflict. The majority have retreated to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

In Europe meanwhile, asylum seekers have tended to settle in Cyprus and Greece. Sweden has welcomed some 4,500 Syrians, while Finland has taken in 100.

Tuomioja pointed out that in reality there are more refugees than official figures state, because many of the people who have left Syria have not declared themselves to be refugees. Additionally, there are many internal refugees in Syria itself, who have abandoned the most dangerous areas.

The Foreign Minister said that the EU had done a lot to help refugees, but it would be essential to work with the UN Security Council to calm the situation in Syria so that the refugees could return to their homes.

He also said that Finland and other EU countries could consider taking in Syrian refugees in need of specialist medical care.

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