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Centre Party split over immigration

The most welcoming towards workers from outside the EU are the Green League, the Swedish People’s Party and the National Coalition Party, says Helsingin Sanomat.

Marjanpoimijoita mansikkapellolla.
Foreign workers are "a salvation" for berry farms, says one Centre politician. Image: Sakari Partanen / Yle

The Finns Party, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats are the parties most strongly opposed to allowing more work-based immigration from outside the EU, reports the daily Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday.

The paper has collated the results of how this spring’s parliamentary candidates answered questions on immigration for its online election guide.

The most welcoming of workers from outside the EU’s borders were candidates from the Green League, the Swedish People’s Party (SPP) and the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), the daily says.

The candidates were asked to take a stand on the following statement: “At the moment, people from outside the European Union and European Economic Area are taken in based on discretionary need, in other words their access to work permits is limited. This should be maintained and there should be no easing of work-based immigration.”

Nearly nine out of 10 Finns Party candidates agreed with the statement, followed by 63 percent of SDP candidates and 57 percent of Christian Democrats.

Meanwhile 94 percent of Greens disagreed, as did 89 percent of SPP candidates, and three quarters of NCP politicians.

“A salvation for certain sectors”

Candidates from the Centre Party, which has long enjoyed a strong lead in public opinion polls, were evenly divided on the issue – though few hold strong views on it.

Anne Niemi, who is running on the Centre ticket in the Vaasa district of western Finland, sees more work-based immigration as a good way to balance supply and demand in the labour force.

"However our own citizens must also get jobs,” she says.

Hannakaisa Heikkinen, keskusta (Juha-Pekka Inkinen / YLE)

Hannakaisa Heikkinen, a Centre politician who is seeking a return to Parliament from the Savo-Karelia district of eastern Finland, agrees somewhat with the notion that some restrictions on work-based immigration should be removed.

"At the moment, the foreign labour force is a salvation for certain sectors, for instance agriculture and gardening, berry cultivation and some industrial fields have had a very hard time attracting Finnish workers. However entrepreneurs face unreasonable red tape in applying for work permits, which can take years in some cases,” she told HS.

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