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Home NATIONALFinland says caught off guard by influx of asylum seekers: reports
Tue, 22 Dec, 2015 12:00:18 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report Dec. 22
Asylum seekers arrive to refugee reception center in the northern town of Tornio, Finland on September 25, 2015.
Finnish authorities have admitted the country was caught off the guard as an influx of asylum seekers started using the land border with Sweden in the North.
     Luckily, however, Finland had made legislative preparations for a possible influx of refugees from Russia in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union. And the legislation facilitated quick reaction.
     Finnish Interior Minister Petter Orpo told the weekly Suomen Kuvalehti that "the tool was ready and waiting." The existing laws made possible the speedy establishment of a processing center in Tornio, northwestern Finland.
     To enforce a law, an applicable decree is required in Finland. A decree was given on Sept. 17, and the center opened five days later.
     Most of the over 30,000 asylum seekers arriving in Finland since August have come via Tornio, a small town bordering Sweden. They were registered there and were transferred to accommodations all around the country. But in the very beginning things were not organized at all.
     The head of the asylum unit at the Immigration Authority, Esko Repo, gave national broadcaster Yle over the weekend details of the early autumn situation -- Asylum seekers crossed the border from Sweden without seeing any Finnish officials and spread throughout the country using public transit or even hitchhiking.
     "The border remained open without any control for several weeks," Repo said.
     Repo predicted that by the end of this year the annual total will be at 33,000 or slightly more. Majority of asylum seekers in Finland were from Iraq, around 20,000.
     Repo said the Immigration Authority is now prepared also for any heightened rate of arrivals over the border with Russia. Immediate measures will be put into place if a large number of people arriving is detected.
     Orpo noted when the crisis broke he found that Finnish criteria for giving asylum to Somalis and Iraqis were easier than in the rest of the Nordic area. The Immigration Authority then froze the processing of their applications until the loopholes were corrected. 
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