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Helsinki votes to approve healthcare for undocumented migrants

Helsinki councillors voted in the early hours of Thursday morning to approve a measure to allow public healthcare for undocumented migrants.

Undocumented migrants will be entitled to healthcare in Helsinki after a vote at the city council. Image: Matti Myller / Yle

Helsinki City Council will in future ask public sector healthcare providers to treat undocumented migrants, after a seven hour debate on the issue culminated in a knife-edge vote in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Some 100 speeches were made on the contentious issue before the vote. In future undocumented migrants will be entitled to treatment for basic care such as vaccinations and chronic conditions that, if untreated, could lead to a need for emergency care.

At present undocumented migrants are allowed treatment for the most critical conditions, for example pregnancy and children's healthcare.

The motion was proposed by Veronika Honkasalo of the Left Alliance, Leo Stranius of the Green Party, and Thomas Wallgren of the Social Democrats, and passed with 45 councillors in favour and 39 opposed.

SDP split

The vote split mainly along party lines, with the Left, the Centre, the Swedish People's Party and the Greens in favour of the motion and the centre-right National Coalition, the Finns Party and the Blue Reform faction opposed.

The Social Democrats were evenly split, with six in favour and six against.

Helsinki's vote could have an impact on other municipalities as they weigh how to handle undocumented migrants' need for care.

The government has already committed to reimbursing municipalities for the cost of treatment for the undocumented, with 5.3 million euros allocated for this purpose in the state budget for 2018.