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PM Sipilä: Quota refugee and development aid increases on the horizon

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said in an interview that Finland will likely soon be in a position to take more quota refugees and allocate more development aid.

Juha Sipilä Ylen Mediatalon ja linkkitornin edessä.
Juha Sipilä outside Yle's Mediatalo building on 1 September 2018. Image: Yle

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä appeared in a television interview Saturday morning with assurances of a possible future increase to Finland's development aid and quota refugee numbers.

Appropriations for Finnish development aid were cut dramatically in 2016, lowering the level of funding to 0.4 percent of Finland's gross domestic product, or GDP. Sipilä said on Yle's Ykkösaamu programme that this amount of funding should be gradually increased to 0.7 percent.

"It's true that we've had to cut back on this important matter while we've put our own economy in order," he said.

"Once the prerequisites are met"

During the same interview, he also said that number of quota refugees Finland welcomes each year could be raised from the current limit of 750 to between 1,500 and 2,000 in future. He said that he was of the opinion that the European Union should cooperate more with the United Nation's Refugee Agency UNHCR, to offer fleeing people assistance.

Sipilä said that the selection of people in need of UNHCR resettlement is determined "on the spot", in the place where refugees have fled to. Agency experts determine who is in need of protection and who qualifies for resettlement in Europe through the programme.

"Once the prerequisites are met, in other words, once we get our outer borders under control with checkpoints, where UN expertise determines which people are in need of protection, then I'll be ready to raise the quota," he said.

UNHCR reports that about 35 nations currently take part in its refugee resettlement programme, offering aid to people who have fled their home country, cannot resettle close to their former domicile, and are in need of permanent placement elsewhere.

In 2017, the US took in over 26,000 UNHCR refugees, representing 36 percent of the over 75,000 people resettled by the agency last year. The UK was next with over 9,000, Sweden took in close to 6,000, and Canada accepted more than 4,000.

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