Finland steps up migrant controls on Swedish border

HELSINKI: Finland is to step up its monitoring of migrants on its border with Sweden after an unexpected influx of mostly Iraqi asylum seekers, the government said on Thursday.


“We will have an enhanced aliens control by the police, border guards and immigration authorities in the border district. We aim to reach all unauthorised incomers to guide them to a reception hub … where they can apply for asylum in Finland,” Interior Minister Petteri Orpo told AFP in Helsinki.

The new reception hub is planned in northern Finland, near the border with Sweden.

Finland has seen a dramatic rise in the number of refugees arriving in the region.

Most of them are Iraqis who have travelled to the small northern Swedish town of Haparanda, and from there have freely walked to the adjacent Finnish town of Tornio.

Finland expects a total of 25,000 to 30,000 asylum seekers this year, seven to eight times as many as in 2014.

Around 1,200 migrants a week are arriving via this northern route, according to the Finnish Immigration Service.

The ministry had earlier stressed that Finland would not restore full border controls at this point, but would “be prepared for it, if necessary.”

Orpo said migrants could be kept at the reception hub for a maximum of one week, and then “those who enter the asylum process will be directed to reception centres around Finland in a controlled manner.”

He added that Finland was aiming to deport people with no viable asylum case “right away”.

The migrants would be required to stay at the reception hub until they were registered, but Orpo said there were no plans to put up walls or fences.

“We will find a Finnish, humane solution to take care of this, respecting people´s rights and their circumstances,” he said.

Finland has been granting asylum to a higher percentage of Iraqis compared to Sweden — 54 percent against 33 percent in the first half of this year — explaining Finland´s increasing popularity amongst Iraqis.

“Sweden is good for Syrians, but bad for Iraqis. I read that on Facebook,” 17-year-old asylum seeker Ali, who had arrived from Iraq´s capital Baghdad, told AFP in Helsinki recently.