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UN refugee chief asks Finns to take in Libyans

On a visit to Helsinki, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees has called on Finland to take in Libyan refugees, while praising its refugee system.

YK:n pakolaispäävaltuutettu António Guterres. Image: Yle

High Commissioner António Guterres expressed concern on Thursday about the flow of refugees from Syria into Turkey. Within the past day alone, more than 1,000 people have fled the city of Jisr al-Shoughhour over the Turkish border, he noted.

Up until now, Syria has been the most receptive country for refugees in the region, the former Portuguese prime minister told YLE.

"The Syrians have always been very generous in hosting refugees -- including Palestinians and Iraqis -- and we are doing everything to preserve that operation in order for the Iraqis not to be threatened or not to suffer with the present situation," he said. "But of course it's a huge humanitarian concern."

Meanwhile in recent months, tens of thousands have fled Libya. Guterres said they cannot remain permanently in Egypt or Tunisia. He called on Europe to welcome some Libyan refugees.

"I have faith in European solidarity and I'm sure that Finns share this as well," Guterres said, adding that the UN wants help from the EU countries, including Finland.

"Finland now has one of Europe's most effective refugee quota systems," he said. "Some local jurisdictions may have problems but I hope that even they can be hospitable in these kinds of situations."

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