Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) urged all parliamentary parties to re-affirm their commitment to the Council of Europe's charter against racism.The despair of asylum seekers arriving to the shores of Southern Europe is real, and the arrivals need our help, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) stated in Jyväskylä on Wednesday.

Sipilä revealed that the ministerial group of the Centre Party discussed the implications of the Mediterranean migrant crisis for Finland on several occasions. “The number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland is growing rapidly, and we must be prepared. This warrants a broad social and value debate,” he stated.

Finns, Sipilä emphasised, must realise that the arrivals are not economic refugees but are truly fleeing war and unrest.

His comments were echoed by Matti Vanhanen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group: “The emergency has reached new proportions. For Germany, it's a question of roughly 600,000—700,000 asylum seekers per year. You don't have to be a fortune teller to say that also the numbers in Finland will rise to a level we're not used to.”

“We have to adopt a way of thinking that we must help people fleeing war in a new crisis such as this,” he said.

Vanhanen also underlined that the statutory grounds for granting asylum must regardless be satisfied. “If they are not, we'll make a deportation decision.”

Sipilä told that his visit to Lebanon earlier this week provided an insight to the gravity of the refugee situation in North Africa. “The situation became more concrete. A country with a population of 4 million has welcomed 1.5 million refugees fleeing the war in Syria. That's enough to put things into perspective for Finland and Europe. But also Finland is faced with the problem that the number of asylum seekers is growing constantly. The issue is definitely on our agenda.”

The ministerial group also discussed racism, hard-line remarks and the general debate climate in Finland.

The case of Olli Immonen (PS) and his ties with national-socialist organisations, however, was not on the agenda according to Vanhanen although the discussions did broach on patriotism in general. “We shouldn't allow patriotism to be compartmentalised alongside extremist ideas. We, or the moderate majority, must show initiative in that respect,” he stressed.

Sipilä insisted that there is no ambiguity in the position of the Centre or the Government on racism.

“People shouldn't be categorised based on their skin colour, culture, religion or language. Finland consists of differences,” said Vanhanen.

He also revealed that the Centre Parliamentary Group will not bring up the inflammatory remarks of Immonen with the Finns Party. “We trust that they'll stand by their word and handle the matter internally, within their own parliamentary group,” he said.

Anna-Liina Kauhanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Arttu Luhtala / HS