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Halla-aho criticises "populist" NCP immigration proposals

The National Coalition Party has expressed "regret" over terminology used in a nine-point immigration policy proposal.

Kokoomuksen kampanjoimassa kuntavaaleihin Helsingin Kampissa.
The National Coalition Party's immigration policy proposal has been sharply criticised since its publication last Friday. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Outgoing Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho has criticised the National Coalition Party's (NCP's) proposal for changes to Finland's immigration policy as a "populist ploy".

The NCP had expressed "regret" over terminology used in the nine-point policy plan, especially in relation to the use of the term kantasuomalainen, which can be translated as either 'native Finn' or 'ethnic Finn'.

Speaking during a discussion about the proposal on Yle's Ykkösaamu show, Halla-aho said the measures proposed by the NCP were largely borrowed from Finns Party policy.

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Jussi Halla-aho
Current Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho. Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva
"I consider this policy proposal to be a cheap, political and populist ploy for many reasons. Some [of the proposals] are not feasible without amendments to the constitution," Halla-aho said, adding that he considers it unlikely that the NCP would implement the measures specified in the draft plan.

NCP removes term from document

NCP MP Pia Kauma, who led the party's working group in drafting the proposal, also appeared on the Thursday morning show alongside Halla-aho and Left Alliance MP Paavo Arhinmäki.

Kauma had apologised on Twitter on Wednesday for the use of the term, saying the intention was to simplify the terminology and not to refer to ethnicity.

The party removed the term kantasuomalainen from the draft document on Wednesday, clarifying it to mean "a Finnish citizen permanently residing in Finland".

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Pia Kauma
National Coalition Party MP Pia Kauma led the working group that drafted the party's immigration policy proposal. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP
According to Arhinmäki, the NCP's recent policies have caused confusion.

"Cutting social security is always the NCP's answer to every question, but the fact that an ethno-nationalist emphasis was brought into this was surprising," Arhinmäki said.

Improvements needed in Finnish language education

Kauma had previously said that the measures outlined in the party's proposal were aimed at tackling the low employment rate among people with a foreign background in Finland, which she said lagged significantly behind the levels in other Nordic countries.

She further noted that, in her opinion, the reasons for the low employment rate are poor Finnish language skills as well as limited knowledge of Finnish society and culture among the immigrant population.

"We have a lot to improve here. We [the NCP] demand that in Finland it should be mandatory to pass a language exam and get a qualification, and that an understanding of Finnish society and values must be demonstrated," Kauma said on the Ykkösaamu show.

Arhinmäki replied that a lack of Finnish language skills is not the fault of immigrants, but of society.

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Paavo Arhinmäki.
Left Alliance MP Paavo Arhinmäki. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
"We have not been able to provide sufficient and high-quality language and culture education," Arhinmäki said, adding that Finnish language education could be provided through more positive and encouraging means, such as the arranging of childcare for immigrant families.

Arhinmäki further described the NCP's immigration policy proposals as unconstitutional and "bending in every direction."

"They want to advance something that is not even possible to implement," he said.

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