Finland has been able to manage immigration reasonably well, Social Democratic Party chair Antti Rinne told Yle’s Saturday morning interview programme Ykkösaamu.
The opposition leader pointed out that it is important to distinguish among the varying reasons that people settle in Finland. He then tackled the subject of economic migration.
“We must recognise that some immigrants are in search of a better life. That is by no means wrong. But Finnish society has its own structures for that. It means different rules for work- and love-based immigration.”
Earlier this month, Centre Party chair and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä claimed that the majority of asylum seekers entering Europe are economic migrants. Yle later found that statistics did not bear out Sipilä’s assertion.
“I believe it is important to make a distinction between economic migration and immigration based on love, for example. They must also be distinguished by humanitarian migration,” Rinne noted, adding that people in distress must receive help.
“The Social Democrats have the clear premise that we must help people in need. It is an unconditional part of our human rights agreements and our constitution.”
Rinne stressed that it is important for officials to ascertain as quickly as possible whether or not people are genuinely in need of protection.
“We must then incorporate these people into society. [Finnish] language skills and employment are essential from the very beginning. When we consider developing an intermediate job market for the long-term unemployed, we also have to think of this aspect.”
Development aid must be timely
The SDP leader said it was good that Europe was developing a common immigration policy.
"It must also be linked to how we handle development aid issues. For example if we are not able to help people and governments in Africa in time, the refugee situation could change suddenly."
The head of Finland's largest opposition party also took aim at Finland's western neighbour, saying that Finland has performed better than Sweden in terms of immigration and integration policy.
“The scale is quite different from our neighbour’s. We can’t compare speak of Finland and Sweden in the same breath,” Rinne said, qualifying his previous statement.
Yle’s latest political barometer put the SDP almost neck-and-neck with the National Coalition Party led by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, with the parties polling at 20.3 and 19 percent respectively.
Sipilä’s Centre had 17.8 percent voter approval, with the poll’s 2.1-percentage-point margin of error making for a virtual dead heat among the three parties.