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Govt partners divided over comments about "changed refugee policy"

Centre MP pans minister’s "changed refugee policy" remarks as government agrees to accept eight stranded migrants.

Maria Ohisalo
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Centre Party MP Antti Kurvinen has contradicted a statement by Greens chair and Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo, who said on Friday that Finland’s refugee policy has changed under the new administration.

Kurvinen, who is chair of the Centre Party parliamentary group and Ohisalo’s coalition government colleague, rejected the minister’s interpretation of government’s migration policy.

"Ohisalo clearly has not yet sufficiently reviewed the government programme relating to asylum and refugee policy. There is no policy change there," Kurvinen said.

Story continues after photo.

Antti Kurvinen
Centre Party MP and parliamentary group chair Antti Kurvinen. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Ohisalo reportedly made the comment in connection with government’s decision to accept eight asylum seekers stranded for two weeks aboard a boat at the Italian port of Lampedusa.

The minister reportedly told Yle that Friday’s decision to allow eight of the vessel’s occupants to apply for asylum in Finland reflected a change in refugee policy under the new government.

"The European Commission has put this request to different member states and Finland, as the next chair of the EU presidency, will bear slightly more responsibility," Ohisalo told Yle on Friday.

Centre MP: Eight migrants "an isolated group"

The move is a departure from the view of the previous government led by outgoing Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä, which opted not to accept migrants stranded aboard two ships that were prevented from docking in Italy and Malta in January.

Kurvinen declared that Finland has always aspired to European- and Nordic-wide solutions to issues relating to refugee policy, and added that the current is no exception.

The Centre MP said that the eight migrants bound for Finland are "an isolated group" that is being received because of Finland’s EU presidency. He added that members of the group not entitled to international protection will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Kurvinen pointed out that the new government programme prioritises security in asylum and refugee policy and that part of this thrust will involve ankle monitors for rejected asylum seekers as well as a prevention programme to curb illegal immigration and residence in the country.

As Interior Minister, Ohisalo will be responsible for implementing those strategies. Kurvinen concluded his statement by saying that the Centre Party wants to direct resources to those genuinely in need.

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