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Finnish Red Cross official says Finland "rushed" to shutter asylum seeker reception centres

Finland has moved too quickly to shut down asylum seeker reception centres, says the head of Finnish Red Cross operations in western Finland. According to SPR local executive manager Pekka Annala, recent news about the migrant situation suggests that there is good reason to think about increasing capacity at reception centres.

Kauhavalla turvapaikanhakijoita ja vastaanottokeskuksen työntekijöitä.
The Kauhava reception centre is located in the premises of the former air training unit of the Finnish Air Force. Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

The head of the Finnish Red Cross’ western district Pekka Annala says Finland has been too hasty about shutting down asylum seeker reception centres in Finland.

Annala said that news about the migration situation in recent weeks indicates that there is reason to at least mentally prepare to increase berths at reception centres.

"The situation is highly fluid. I’m already thinking about setting up a new unit," Annala remarked.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Paula Risikko said that Finland might consider accepting asylum seekers from Italy, which has been overwhelmed by more than 85,000 new arrivals since the beginning of the year.

Of the remaining Finnish Red Cross (SPR) reception centres in western Finland, one is located in Kauhava and is currently accommodating more than 400 residents. However in a pinch, the Kauhava centre could take in as much as 600 more people.

"Kauhava can provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers for a few weeks or even up to a month. In that sense it is an excellent facility because it can adjust in many ways. There is a lot of capacity," Annala explained.

Cracking backlog of asylum cases

Last year the Interior Ministry announced that it would begin shuttering asylum seeker reception centres as immigration officials worked to tackle a backlog of asylum applications.

Successful applicants are moved to other housing in municipalities, while rejected asylum seekers are generally deported once they have exhausted all avenues of appeal.

The SPR also scaled back on berths. Up to the end of 2015 it operated more than 100 reception centres but today it provides asylum seeker accommodation at around 30 facilities.

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