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Swedish minister raps Finland over refugees

Ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting, Swedish minister Margot Wallström has sharply criticised Finland’s refugee policy, noting that Sweden took in more than 70,000 Finnish war children during the Second World War. Her Finnish counterpart, Timo Soini, refused to comment on plans for new refugee quotas. 

Ruotsin ulkoministeri Margot Wallström valokuvattuna YK:n päämajassa New Yorkissa huhtikuussa 2015.
Ruotsin ulkoministeri Margot Wallström valokuvattuna YK:n päämajassa New Yorkissa huhtikuussa 2015. Image: Andrew Gombert / EPA

Speaking with reporters before an informal meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström was unusually blunt in referring to neighbouring Finland and its current debate over accepting refugees.

“You should remember your own history,” said Wallström. She pointed to the WWII era, when Finland fought two wars with the Soviet Union between 1939 to 1944, while Sweden remained neutral and largely unscathed.

“We then took in more than 70,000 war children from Finland for safety,” she noted. 

Wallström also pointed out that during the war years many people left Sweden as well, mainly heading to Canada and the United States in hope of better jobs.

Soini tight-lipped

The nationalist Finns Party, which joined the government for the first time three months ago, has fought hard to limit the number of refugees to be taken in by Finland. The country has one of western Europe’s smallest foreign-background populations – some 5.5 percent of the population compared with about 15 percent in Sweden.

Arriving at the Luxembourg meeting, Finns chair and Foreign Minister Timo Soini declined to comment to Yle about his views on proposed refugee quotas, which are to be discussed on Saturday.

He did comment that it is “intolerable that the EU does not follow its own rules, the Dublin Convention,” which specifies that the first member state through which an asylum seeker first enters the EU is responsible for processing his or her claim.

Asked what should be done now in regard to the refugee crisis, he replied simply:

“Follow the rules.”

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