Finland is set to establish one or more removal centres for asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down, Petteri Orpo (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, has revealed.

As many as thousands of asylum applications may be rejected due to the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers into the country. “These people could then be accommodated in the removal centres with tighter controls,” Orpo said on Thursday.

He refrained from elaborating on the meaning of “tighter controls”.

“They won't be turned into prisons,” he affirmed.

The Minister of the Interior confirmed on Thursday that some of the reception centres currently in operation will be shut down in the near future. Calls to do so have been previously justified by citing security reasons and the long distances police officers have to travel to reach some of the reception centres. Orpo, however, also justified the decision by pointing out that the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland has decreased to an estimated one hundred per day.

More on the topic:

- Housing facility for asylum seekers evacuated in Kempele (29 November 2015)

- Asylum applications drop in Finland after Sweden launches border checks (25 November 2015)

- Government earmarks an additional €0.5bn for immigration costs (20 November 2015)

The Government is also set to require asylum seekers to sign a document stating that they are familiar with local laws and customs and pledge to abide by the legislation. The document will have no legal significance, however.

Police officers have been called to break off a number of altercations and fights at reception centres in the course of the autumn. Most of the incidents have occurred between asylum seekers, but law enforcement officers have also had to respond to aggressive behaviour by members of the native population.

An incident occurred in a reception centre in Hennala, Lahti, in November in which a police patrol had to resort to using pepper spray and batons after being mobbed by a group of men. An internal inquiry into the incident has been opened, according to Tero Seppänen, a deputy chief at the Häme Police Department.

“It was a complicated and definitely a difficult incident. We want to know exactly what happened. We're looking into whether or not patrols should be equipped with other gear in addition to what they're already using and if there's something we could take away from this. We'll naturally also look into whether or not the action taken in the situation was appropriate,” comments Seppänen.

He reveals that a number of police patrols responded to the incident in Lahti. He also says he is not aware of a single criminal investigation launched in connection with the incident.

Further details of the incident are being kept under wraps.

Helsingin Sanomat wrote on 18 November that the Ministry of the Interior is exploring the possibility of assigning security guards to reception centres in response to an increase in disturbances.

Orpo and his fellow cabinet members are currently formulating new outlines for the immigration policy of Finland. The Government is expected to announce the complete results of its efforts on Tuesday. “[The outlines] are an attempt to respond to concerns raised by Finns whether enough is being done,” described Orpo.

Aapo Mentula, Juhani Saarinen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT