The Helsinki City Council voted 45–39 in favour of a proposal to expand the rights of undocumented immigrants to health and medical care services after a heated debate that dragged on well into the wee hours of Thursday.
Undocumented immigrants will thereby be entitled not only to emergency care services but also to medication, vaccination, dental care, medical monitoring and treatment for chronic diseases.
The City Council also confirmed that undocumented immigrants will remain entitled to crisis and emergency accommodation, legal counselling and psychosocial support as per to the recommendation of Social Services and Health Care Division of Helsinki.
The Finns Party, in particular, was strongly opposed to the proposal.
Jussi Halla-aho, the chairperson of the populist right-wing party, urged the city council to consign the proposal to the city board and wait for the completion of a report on the situation of undocumented immigrants, which is being drafted by a special task force. He also demanded that the city conduct a thorough assessment of the costs and impacts of the decision.
The Helsinki City Council, he argued, should refrain from approving proposals that encourage immigrants to remain in the country illegally as such proposals are in conflict with the national objective of reducing the number of illegal immigrants.
He believes it is also important to ensure undocumented immigrants are not entitled to “better services” than official residents of Helsinki.
The Finns Party was not the only political group to oppose the proposal, as evidenced by the relatively close vote. All councillors representing the National Coalition voted against the proposal, as did half of the councillors representing the Social Democrats.
“Helsinki will unfortunately continue expanding the services of undocumented immigrants,” tweeted Mirita Saxberg (NCP), a councillor for the City of Helsinki. “Its decision will set a direction for the entire Finland. There’s no reason to act against the policies of the government – those residing in the country illegally should be removed rather than sent to care ‘free of charge’.”
“Accommodating undocumented immigrants, after all, is a punishable act,” reminded Saxberg.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vilja Vehkaoja – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi