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Interior Minister: Finland will process all new arrivals' asylum applications

The Interior Minister did not say what Finland considers an appropriate number of asylum seekers to accept.

Maria Ohisalo Politiikan toimittajien yhdistyksen vieraana Helsingissä.
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo spoke to the association of political journalists in Finland on Friday. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo has said that Finland will process applications for all asylum seekers, even if a situation similar to 2015 were to occur. At that time, roughly 35,000 people fleeing war in Syria and Iraq crossed the border into Finland in seek of refuge.

Speaking in an Yle interview, the minister said that all asylum applications will be processed according to international law.

"According to international law asylum applications should be processed. The Finnish government has not determined that there is any way to say that we will not deal with these applications. We will process them," Ohisalo said in the interview.

EU to decide on numbers

According to the current government programme, with respect to hosting asylum seekers, Finland aspires to “an equitable and sustainable sharing of responsibility among European countries.”

However Ohisalo was not able to say what the government sees as the appropriate number of asylum seekers for Finland to accept.

"There is no absolute number of asylum seekers. That needs to be discussed as the situation develops. What we should do if more people come here is of course on the government’s table," she responded, adding that Finland is now awaiting word from the EU on how asylum seekers are to be distributed among member states.

Ohisalo commented on the EU’s asylum system, which she said needs to be reviewed.

"The system is in no way functional. The big picture relating to immigration and asylum policy as a whole should be revisited," she declared.

Greece "wrong" to suspend asylum processing

The minister has been under pressure to stake out a clear government position on the asylum seeker situation in Greece, where officials have suspended processing asylum claims for one month from people allowed across the border with Turkey.

The minister said that although the EU stands by Greece, it is wrong to stop processing asylum seekers.

"If we look at the big picture internationally, then in some sense it is wrong. One should always receive asylum applications," she commented.

Ohisalo repeated previous assertions that an EU interior ministers’ declaration is based on the premise that international law should be observed.

Speaking separately to political journalists on Friday, Ohisalo said that in due course Greece will have to answer to the European Court of Human Rights for its actions.

She told reporters that Finland will assist Greece in meeting its international obligations, which include the right to apply for asylum.

"The Finnish government's position here is clear. When we secure our borders, we are abiding by international obligations. International obligations include [observing] the right to apply for asylum. This is one of the areas where we will try to support Greece," she pointed out.

The opposition Finns Party indicated that it plans to press for a no-confidence vote over the government's lack of clarity on the situation in Greece.

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