Foreign Minister Timo Soini (Finns) met with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Helsinki on Friday afternoon. Despite the distance of about 3,200 kilometers between the countries, the ministers not only shared common beliefs in religion (they are both Catholic), but also agreed that the mass migration needs to be stopped.
Finland is one of the financial supporters of refugees and local communities in Lebanon and the presence of the Finnish peace corps with about 300 troops is one of the largest platoons guarding the stability in the volatile country.
Lebanon hosts about 1.1 million registered refugees but the number of those living under the radar is unknown. Nevertheless, the number is close to the total number of refugees in the whole Europe, a figure somewhere about 1.5-2 million.
Bassil had a gut feeling about the numbers of refugees lurking in Lebanon.
“Finland is 33 times bigger than Lebanon with almost the same population. We have 2 million refugees in Lebanon,” Bassil said while reading from his papers at the press conference at the Government Banquet Hall. The number equals about 45 per cent of the population of 4.5 million.
“Lebanon is confronted by many challenges. Mainly because of the vast influx of Syrian refugees and the national phenomenon of terrorism. So from this angle we focused on the impacts on both our nations to correspond mass migration,” Bassil said.
While the ministers agreed that the crisis can only be tackled by international cooperation . . . hammering stricter rules, border control and so on . . . Bassil also painted images of what happens after the refugees have settled in society. “The forced mass migration will irreversibly alter the pluralistic nature of the region and destroy the diversity of a social family,” he said and continued, “In Europe the mass migration will weaken the foundation of the European Union.”
Bassil also wondered whether Finland will be able to retain “its historical culture and image” after receiving a total of 32,476 refugees.
“The scale is different (compared with Lebanon) but the results are the same,” he said.
Soini grabbed Bassil’s hand and bumped shoulders with his counterpart from far away, and they walked out of the white doors to enjoy the Friday evening after the compact conference.