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Finns party MPs question Syrian refugee quota

The government’s decision to accept 500 Syrian refugees in 2014 has raised disquiet among opposition MPs. Jussi Halla-Aho, an immigration opponent who has been convicted of inciting ethnic hatred, has filed written parliamentary questions on the matter.

Jussi Halla-Aho
Jussi Halla-Aho Image: Yle

The government plans to accept a total of 500 refugees from Syria—200 as part of the annual quota of 750 refugees and 300 on top of that. Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen said in announcing the move that it was intended to help relieve a dire situation in Syria’s neighbouring countries.

Funding for the additional refugees requires parliamentary approval. That process has been complicated by Finns party MPs Halla-Aho and Vesa-Matti Saarakkala’s motion to refuse to accept the Syrian refugees.

While neighbouring Sweden has granted permanent residency to all asylum seekers from Syria, and has received nearly 11,000 this year, Finland has received just 72 Syrian refugees so far this year. The additional expense of Syrian refugees in 2015-2017 will come to about 2.7 million euros, but Halla-Aho does not want the government to spend that money.

Employment issue

“The problem is that these people do not have the kind of preparedness you need to join the labour market in post-industrial western European countries like Finland and Sweden,” said Halla-Aho, who also says refugee policy is more of a conscience salve than a solution to the problem.

“It is like using chewing gum to fix a leaking boat,” said the Helsinki MP.

Finns Party MP Pirkko Mattila, who heads up the Administration committee that deals with immigration issues in parliament, says that her party has no policy on the Syrian refugee question. According to her, Halla-Aho’s initiative is an individual act and not a party-backed move. Halla-Aho, meanwhile, says he is acting in accordance with the party programme.

“It fits with the Finns party’s manifesto and programme,” said Halla-Aho. “It is the party’s view, if you look at what has been printed in books and pamphlets.”

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