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PM Sipilä urges MPs to support fast-tracked intelligence law, says "the right to life is more important than the right to privacy"

In the wake of Friday's deadly knife attacks in Turku, Finland's Prime Minister told an audience of ambassadors that there must be a faster way to deport people who have come in Finland under false pretences. He also called for faster parliamentary approval of slated changes to security and intelligence laws.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä puhuu Suomen suurlähettiläiden kokouksessa Helsingissä maanantaina 21. elokuuta 2017.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is of the opinion that asylum seekers entering the country should be able to prove that they have come from genuinely troubled conditions.

 In a Monday address to a meeting of Finland's ambassadors, Sipilä said that Finland will help people in need in future, despite the country's weak financial position, but only if their need is real.

"We will continue to accept asylum seekers and refugees. But at the same time we have to do everything we can to ensure that people arriving in Finland are escaping from truly troubling conditions," he told his listeners.

"If this isn't the case, we should have swift means for removing people who have arrived here under false pretences. We have to identify the people that abuse the system earlier," the prime minister said. 

Sipilä also told the crowd that his three-party government made increased security a key policy in its mid-term talks. He said that if the events in Turku so require, new action could also be taken.

Constitutional changes should come quickly

Sipilä also repeated his plea for faster parliamentary approval of slated changes to security and intelligence laws. He said the Turku attacks should make the justifications for the legislative reform clear to everyone, despite controversy over the expanded surveillance powers in the proposal.

Changes to the Finnish Constitution would require the approval of 5/6th of the Parliament, as the changes would alter the basic rights of citizens as enshrined in the founding document of the country, but Sipilä said that he believes the wide-ranging changes are worth it.

"The right to life is more important than the right to privacy," the Finnish Prime Minister said on Monday. 

Sipilä says that Finland can't go on in a situation in which it receives information about a potentially dangerous person abroad that could affect domestic security, but it can't investigate the person in the appropriate manner, in the appropriate timeframe.

The proposed surveillance legislation has generated pushback among constitutional law experts. The broader surveillance powers proposed by the reform requires changes to the constitution.

This means that five-sixths of MPs would have to line up behind the draft bill -- and that includes the opposition, many of whom have roundly condemned it as over-reaching. In practice, implementing the reform would also require the establishment of a watchdog body to oversee the activities of intelligence agencies.

Cool heads must prevail

Sipilä said in his speech that the Turku attacks should be "condemned as repulsive and cowardly". He said the stabbing were inhumane against everything religions hold sacred.

He urged people to show restraint and be trusting of others, and not let an individual incident lead to far-reaching conclusions. 

"We have to resist breaking into camps. We need to build bridges now," said the Prime Minister.

Soini also weighs in

Foreign Minister Timo Soini also commented on the Friday attacks in an earlier statement.

He said tighter international cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism, suggesting that more cross-border collaboration is needed.

He commented on the Turku incident on Monday morning from an ambassador's meeting in Helsinki.

"I feel a sadness that is difficult to put into words when I consider these serious matters," he said.

Soini says the knife attack in Turku on Friday evening shows that terrorism is present in Finland, too, but as a country that follows the rule of law, it will be successful in "overcoming the terrorist threat".

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