Finland Times

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Home NATIONALImmigration policy tightening faces obstacles
Thu, 18 Feb, 2016 12:00:18 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report, Feb 18
File Photo Lehtikuva.
The government has drafted a series of plans to tighten up immigration policies. However, some of the measures have encountered obstacles within the country.
The government has proposed a set of drastic changes to immigration policies since September last year, when a great number of asylum seekers started to arrive in the country.
The stricter policies include re-evaluating the security situation of asylum seekers' homelands, speeding up repatriation of those denied asylum, tightening conditions for family unification, strengthening border controls, cutting benefits for refugees and so on.
However, the new measures never went through smoothly. Last September, legal experts criticized them as "unconstitutional."
"It is in no way sustainable that the government is almost every day introducing new proposals and policies that immediately demonstrate serious problems in light of Finland's international legal obligations and constitutional law," experts Tuomas Ojanen and Juha Lavapuro wrote in their joint blog.
Last December, Kari Makinen, Archbishop of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, slammed the government adopting stricter rules for asylum seekers.
He told Yle that the proposals could lead to people having unequal status because of their ethnic backgrounds. The religious leader warned that a further hardening of the atmosphere and sentiments could lead to contempt for the human dignity of others.
Among others, the draft proposal to tighten family reunion conditions, which was initiated last autumn, has suffered the most backlash.
The move, aiming to make Finland less attractive to immigrants, requires that both internationally protected immigrants and Finnish citizens have a steady income before any approval of a family reunification application.
For example, a person who wants to bring a non-EU spouse into the country should have a monthly net income of at least 1,700 euros (about 1,887 U.S. dollars). A family of four would need an income of at least of 2,600 euros.
The plan has met with criticism from members of parliament of both the ruling and the opposition parties.
Head of the Greens parliamentary group Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto said individual fundamental rights shouldn't be tied to their financial means.
Sampo Terho, chair of the ruling Finns Party's parliamentarian group, said the income limit is not the right solution.
Arto Satonen, chairman of the National Coalition Party's parliamentarian Group, believed that the income limits should not be subject to Finnish citizens. The opinion was echoed by Antti Lindtman, chairman of the Social Democratic Party's parliament group.
The income limits, currently being discussed by civic organizations and administrative units, are expected to take effect by the middle of 2016. 
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