A planned reform of the EU's system for dealing with asylum seekers got a cool reception from politicians asked about the plan on Friday during Yle's Aamu TV programme.
Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen of the centre-right National Coalition Party, Green MP Ville Niinistö, and anti-immigrant populist Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho took part in the discussion of European Union plans to impose an obligatory asylum seeker burden-sharing programme that would re-distribute asylum seekers in the EU.
European Union countries will likely soon be voting on a directive that obliges them to share the load of incoming asylum seekers to southern European countries or, alternatively, provide the countries facing the largest burden with financial support. The EU has been trying to find a suitable agreement on asylum seekers since 2015, when over one million people arrived in Europe and claimed asylum.
Finland's Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen says the crux of the problem as far as Finland and Europe are concerned is the so-called Dublin Regulation, which seeks to regulate the unchecked migration of non-registered refugees in Europe. He says it is essential to jointly agree on the rules on how the EU member states can support the border countries hit hardest by the crisis.
"It would be in Finland's best interests that we have clear rules in place, and not slapdash solutions, for dealing with future crises. We are still working on how this can be done," he said.
Finns Party chair proposes fines
Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho says he doesn't support the principle of giving EU member states the option of paying financial support to frontline countries.
"It's in no way realistic. Asylum seekers don't apply for asylum in the EU's poorest countries. Requiring them to fork out monetary sanctions would be an unsustainable solution, both politically and economically. From Finland's point of view as a member state, it would be wiser and cheaper to pay fines instead of taking people in, because we all know their integration prospects into the Finnish labour market," the anti-immigrant MEP commented.
Green Party MP and former chair Ville Niinistö said it is important to guarantee some kind of EU principle of solidarity on the asylum issue, in order for the union to be able to handle any future crises humanely. He says the current draft of the Common European Asylum System directive is leaning in this direction, but still has work to do to properly safeguard asylum seekers' rights.
"The draft has punitive elements, and, to some extent, the human rights of asylum seekers do not improve in all situations. The aim here is to transfer responsibility to the outlying EU member states, and that's no good," Niinistö contributed.
"Finland has carried its share of the load"
Mykkänen pointed out on Friday's programme that if a burden-sharing directive for asylum seekers had already been in place before the 2015 influx, Finland would have taken in half the number of refugees that it ending up accepting.
"We shouldered the third-largest burden in Europe then, when 35,000 people arrived within the space of one year. We would best be served by a plan that would encourage more countries to do their part," the centre-right National Coalition Party minister said.
Halla-aho said that the problem can't be managed by transferring asylum applicants from one country to another within Europe, as the problem's roots are in the much-wider phenomenon of immigration in general.
"Migratory pressures from Africa and the Middle East are not going to go away. It will prove to be the challenge of the century for Europe," he predicted.
"Closing borders is unthinkable"
Mykkänen acknowledged that there is a steep gap in the standard of living in the countries on Europe's southern border, making it impossible for them to offer housing and social benefits in the face of unchecked immigration. He says it is unthinkable, however, to stop providing help to people in need, and closing borders cannot be a solution.
Niinistö says the EU deal on the table also doesn't go far enough in preparing for another mass migration like the kind that was seen in 2015. He says any burden-sharing should kick in automatically once the number of applicants exceeds the defined carrying capacity of the country in question.
"The burden-sharing directive should have provisions that aim to direct people to EU countries where they already have relatives. Consideration of people's personal ties would make the process more sensible."