Finland to start national border controls

Finland begins preparations for reinforcement controls at its borders to prevent continuation of massive refugee influx from Sweden in to country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees walked in heavy rain from public transport centre to Lappia-building refugee reception centre in Tornio, northwestern Finland, September 18, 2015.

Updated Sep 22, 2015

Finland has recently announced its willingness to begin national border controls in an attempt to put an end to the huge influx of refugees from neighboring Sweden, Interior Minister Petteri Orpo said on Monday.

"We have readiness for that [border controls] at any time, and we have already considerably tightened our policies," Orpo told Reuters via the phone.

Police officers started random border checks on Saturday in the northern town of Tornio and are planning to initiate, what the government calls "enhanced foreigner supervision" around the country on Tuesday.

Finland is expecting to receive 25,000 to 30,000 asylum applications this year, compared to 3,600 in 2014, marking it the biggest flooding of refugees since the Russian Revolution when "Whites" fled the "Reds," according to the Finnish Immigration Service.

Most of the asylum seekers are from Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan. In fact, Iraqis stand a better chance of being granted asylum in Finland than in Sweden.

Orpo stated that the continuation of the Iraqis through Sweden into Finland was due to the large Iraqi community that already lives in the country and because Finland eased its asylum criteria compared to their neighboring state.

"Apparently, it is slightly harder to get asylum from Sweden. But we will review our legislation now and we want to be on the same level with Sweden," he added.

According to statistics, a total of 54 percent of Iraqi requests were granted in Finland in the first six months of the year, compared to the 33 percent in Sweden.

"Sweden is good for Syrians, but bad for Iraqis. I read that on Facebook," Ali, a 17-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker, told AFP.

Iraqi refugee girl Wed drinks juice as her father Thaeer and mother Luna discuss in the background at a refugee reception centre in Tornio, northwestern Finland, September 18, 2015.

During the first eight months of the year, more than 11,000 refugees arrived in Finland, such huge numbers have angered some Finns, particularly those hit by high unemployment and housing shortages.

"Our economic problems are less worrying than the migrant crisis," Centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila said on Friday.

"We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation," Finns Party member of parliament Olli Immonen tweeted last week, inciting their followers to demonstrate against the asylum seekers.

In Tornio, almost 600 people blocked the border post for a short while, while waving the Finnish blue-and-white flag, according to the police.

The "far-right" demonstrators formed a "human wall" along the border, Peter Waara, a Social Democratic town councilor, who was involved in a counter-demonstration on the other side of the border, told AFP.

The Finnish Immigration Service is planning to start a new asylum reception hub in Tornio on Tuesday in an old high school building, so all of the refugees arriving through the north will be registered at the hub before being relocated to asylum centres elsewhere around the country while their asylum requests are being processed.

"It is primarily about ensuring that we have control over the situation," Interior Minister Petteri Orpo said.

Orpo said Finland should begin negotiating tougher actions than border controls, without giving any details.

Refugees walked in heavy rain from a public transport centre to Lappia-building refugee reception centre in Tornio, northwestern Finland, September 18, 2015.

Adding that he was concerned over the rising tensions between European Union states regarding the refugee crisis, during an interior ministers' meeting on Tuesday.

"We need a European solution. If one cannot be found, it is clear that Finland cannot take endless numbers of asylum seekers. The line could be crossed at some point, and we haven't actually prepared for that," he said.

"Finland is a final stop in a way.The asylum seekers don't continue their journey anywhere."

Finland has agreed to accept a two percent share of the 120,000 asylum seekers to be relocated across European Union states, but is still hostile to the mandatory quotas.

TRTWorld and agencies