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Prime Minister at his official residence Kesäranta on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

”The largest number [of refugees] are on the move because of economic reasons. Not because they would be escaping war or personal persecution.”

This statement by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in an interview with the national broadcaster YLE on Sunday has caused debate and raised some eyebrows in the media and with people.

In a blog post published yesterday, Sipilä attempts to explain his statement—and more—in detail.

The refugee crisis reaching back three years brought the whole of Europe, including us, in front of a new situation. “The reality is that the largest number of arrivals in 2015 and during the refugee crisis did not meet the criteria to receive an asylum in Finland,” Sipilä says.

According to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), about one-third of the refugees who arrived in Finland during 2015-2017 received an asylum. Of the refugees who arrived in Europe, about 44 percent received an approved asylum. “So, the vast amount didn’t have the prerequisites of receiving an asylum in Europe,” Sipilä says.

Refugee quota could be increased

Sipilä goes on sharing his thoughts on immigration and development aid.

According to Sipilä, the refugee quota could be increased from the current 750 to about 1,500-2,000. The EU should cooperate more with the UN refugee organization so that people could be helped closer to the crisis areas.

In addition, Sipilä says that the money allocated to development aid from the gross domestic product should be gradually increased from the current 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent.

According to Sipilä, immigrants are an important part of Finland’s vitality and success. “Different job descriptions require more workers also from abroad. Diversity in communities enriches our culture and expands our understanding of the world.”

Finland also has a responsibility and a duty to help those in need. “The most important and first goal of our politics is to help those escaping war, persecution. That’s why I have proposed that Finland should increase their refugee quota,” Sipilä says. “I have also for a long time been an advocate for developing a common asylum politics system for the whole of Europe.”

Faster help for the weakest

According to Sipilä, we need more control on the outer borders and we should be able to provide faster help for the weakest. “Currently, our systems are jammed for years and at the end, the weakest are in danger to be left without help.”

Sipilä says that more focus should be put on a “new kind of Africa cooperation.” “People need to be helped closer to their home and we must put more effort to combat climate change.”

Sipilä says that according to the UN refugee organization, there are more people who have left their homes than ever before. In order to create belief in the opportunities in one’s homeland, we need a lot of means from development cooperation to crisis management.

“We must also realize honestly that the differences in economic standards between Europe and its surrounding countries are so big that it feeds migration. The hardships created by climate change and conflicts combined to the large increase of population in African countries is a big question for Europe,” Sipilä says. “We will not make through this if we are not able to help Africa and create hope for the future there.”

Sipilä says that we will also need to find ways and channels for controlled migration to Europe and Finland. Europe and Finland need work-related immigration. “Uncontrollable immigration weakens the sense of security and is bound to increase xenophobia. People’s concerns are always real. Many have asked if this thing is absolutely in control. We cannot ignore people’s worries and fears, but instead, we must be able to discuss the solutions in politics without running over others with our prejudices.”

According to Sipilä, it’s clear that we must strengthen unity in Finland and the acceptance of diversity.

“We must give no room for racism,” Sipilä concludes.