Finnish asylum policy attacked in Parliament
Foreigner law debated
Finland’s asylum policy came under some heavy criticism in Parliament on Tuesday when the much talked-about bill for an amendment in legislation on foreigners came back into plenary session for final debate. This time it was not only the right-wing populist True Finns who expressed outrage: there was criticism from the National Coalition Party, as well as from the opposition Social Democrats.
Former Minister of the Interior Kari Rajamäki (SDP) felt that the government has lost its grip on asylum policy. He says that applying for asylum in Finland is partially an organised and centralised activity, which means that Finland is being taken advantage of.
Arto Satonen (Nat. Coalition Party) asked if there are “pull factors”, incitements, which encourage asylum seekers to come to Finland instead of choosing Norway and Sweden, for example.
Processing asylum applications needs to be speeded up, said Ben Zyskowicz (Nat. Coalition Party). He added that those whose applications are rejected should be removed from the country immediately, and more money needs to be spent on the integration of those who have been granted asylum. Many Members of Parliament agreed with the last demand in particular, in light of the growth in the number of asylum applicants.
Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party) noted that a million euros extra has been allocated to the Finnish Immigration Service, but there was speculation in the debate that the real need would be between EUR 2 million and 4 million.
Most of the comments involved criticism of asylum policy, but other voices were heard as well. Kimmo Kiljunen (SDP) wondered how seeking a safe place to live could be “illegal”. Tommy Tabermann (SDP) said that he felt that a “spirit of intolerance” was hovering over the debate.
The only party to actually oppose the proposal that came out of the Parliament’s Administration Committee were the True Finns.
A majority felt that the changes would keep asylum policy at its present level.
The views of the True Finns were expressed by the Parliamentary group chairman Raimo Vistbacka and Administration Committee member Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner.
The True Finns felt that asylum policy needs to be toughened, and that the proposed changes might actually loosen it.
Administration Committee chairman Tapani Tölli (Centre) let it be understood that the view of the True Finns is propagandistic, because they came up with it on the last day that it was handled in committee, after having supported a draft memo on the matter the previous day.
The True Finns responded, saying that the text had been changed overnight. In the justifications for humanitarian immigration the mention of a “severe security and human rights situation” had been changed to include “a poor security situation stemming from a poor human rights situation”. Tölli, Vistbacka, and Ruohonen-Lerner clashed heavily on the subject during the debate.
The proposed legislative change will come before a vote two weeks from now.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland could give refuge to freed Guantanámo inmates (23.1.2009)
Few parties put emphasis on immigration policy (12.1.2009)
Integration training fails to significantly improve employment prospects of refugees (22.12.2008)