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Elina Lepomäki: Let in 50,000 migrants, then close the borders

David Mac Dougall
Elina Lepomäki: Let 50,000 migrants in, then close the borders
Elina Lepomäki: Let 50,000 migrants in, then close the borders
Kokoomus MP says there should be a "rolling" upper limit for asylum seekers in Finland, and that they should have the chance to work as soon as possible. But where would those jobs come from? Lepomäki has a few ideas about that as well, on this week's HSTV Newsmaker's programme, hosted by David Mac Dougall.

National Coalition Party member of parliament Elina Lepomäki says Finland should have a "rolling" limit of 50,000 migrants, before imposing temporary border controls to stop the flow of people coming to the country to claim asylum.

Speaking on HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, Lepomäki acknowledges her suggested upper limit will likely be reached during the first part of 2016. "If we have this rolling upper limit of 50,000 persons, then we can see how this process goes" says the Kokoomus MP.

"Some people are granted asylum, some people are leaving voluntarily, some want to stay as migrants if they have a job, which is perfect".

Lepomäki, who was called to parliament to fill the vacancy created when former Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen moved to take a job in Brussels, concedes that Finland's current open-borders policy towards migrants would result in "a massive change in demographics". With an overwhelming majority of men among the more than 30,000 migrants who arrived in Finland during 2015, Lepomäki says that job creation is the way to curb potential problems with "a huge number of idle young men",

But how would that job creation work? With youth unemployment and underemployment already a chronic problem among the Finnish population, how would the market cope with having to find jobs for potentially tens of thousands more people?

Lepomäki advocates a scheme whereby the private sector could hire migrants at lower wages, with less generous terms and conditions than Finnish workers, and also take responsibility for their new employees' language integration lessons and skills training. She also called on apprenticeship rules to be "revolutionised".

"There should be ways for employers to employ people for shorter periods of time, say six months, and see whether they can be actually be provided a proper job afterwards" explains Lepomäki.

"But then six months with much less pay than a Finnish-speaking, and a proper trained person would get, with less pay [...] obviously the employer has the incentive to provide proper language training and also other training on the job. And I'm pretty sure there would be employers willing to take on this task".

A former investment banker in London, Lepomäki says that she believes 90% of migrant problems can be solved by reforming Finland's labour market. She says that asylum seekers whose applications to stay in Finland are granted should be allowed to work as soon as possible.

"I think if a person is able to show that he can take a job tomorrow, then he should be able to take on that job" she says.

Lepomäki also thinks the system to process asylum applications should be more "straight forward". Refugee status and asylum "can only be applied to persons who really do face such issues which are defined in the UN convention".

Addressing recent issues of migrant men who have displayed inappropriate behaviour around Finnish women, Lepomäki says that "if someone commits a crime, he should be punished for sure".

But she also says these incidents are teachable moments.

"Most of these issues are are 'clash of culture' -type problems which should be dealt with by mostly education". At a swimming pool near Oulu, migrant men received a temporary entry ban after people complained the men were hanging around staring at swimmers, or going into women's changing rooms. Lepomäki says a short-term ban like this can be "quite effective in showing [...] that this is not appropriate behaviour in this country".

"I think it's extremely helpful to speak about [crimes by migrants] says the politician. "At the end of the day it's the responsibility of the individual to behave by the standards in this society, that applies to Finns, or current Finns, as much as migrants".

Follow HSTV’s Newsmakers on Twitter @HSNewsmakers and join the conversation.

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