Finland wants Nordic cooperation in returning rejected asylum seekers

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Iraqi refugees returning from Finland wait for their luggage at Baghdad airport, Iraq February 18, 2016. Khalid al Mousily/REUTERS
Iraqi refugees returning from Finland wait for their luggage at Baghdad airport, Iraq February 18, 2016. Khalid al Mousily/REUTERS
Finland’s Interior Minister Petteri Orpo is calling for Nordic cooperation in sending rejected asylum seekers back to their home countries.

Nordic countries have had trouble repatriating former asylum seekers to places like Iraq, because authorities are reluctant to accept people who are not returning voluntarily. Orpo wants the Nordic countries to collaborate in encouraging Iraq to take in returning migrants, for instance by offering increased development aid.

He was speaking in Stockholm, Sweden, at a meeting of Nordic migration ministers on Wednesday evening.

‘Sweden is a safe country’

Meanwhile Norway wants the right to turn back asylum seekers trying to enter the country from Sweden. Norwegian migration minister Anniken Hauglie pointed out that Sweden is a safe country. She told Swedish radio that Norway would only exercise its right to deny entry in extreme situations. The proposal is part of a 40-point immigration package intended to toughen the country’s asylum seeker policy.

Both Sweden and Denmark separately announced the temporary extension of border identification checks on Thursday in a bid to deter the influx of further migrants and refugees.

Two more centres to close

Back in Finland the Immigration Service announced on Thursday that it will close two reception centres for asylum-seekers by the end of this month. They are the Isohiekka facility at a campground in Keuruu, eastern Finland, which is run by the local Evangelical Lutheran parish, and the Paattinen centre in northern Turku, which is operated by the Finnish Red Cross.

Halt to arrivals from Russia

The number of arriving asylum seekers has dropped dramatically since its peak last September. This year the focus of arrivals shifted from Finland’s northern border with Sweden – where most arrivals were Iraqis – to its northern border with Russia.

In January and February, more than 1,000 asylum seekers came in from Russia. The largest groups were Afghans and Indians.

Tuesday was the first day of this year when no asylum seekers arrived in eastern Finnish Lapland. Last week President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian security forces to begin controlling the flow of foreigners into Finland.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Should Canada have a plan for climate refugees?, Radio Canada International

Finland: Asylum-seekers sign up for snow clearing in Finland, Yle News

Norway:  Refugees find Arctic gate to Schengen, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Councils in North Sweden fail to house refugees, Radio Sweden

Russia:  Putin orders security services to strengthen control over refugees in transit to Europe, Barents Observer

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