Finland’s new government cracks down on immigration

Finland‘s new coalition government, which includes the far-right Finns Party, on Friday announced plans to crack down on immigration with the far-right heading the interior ministry.

“I am delighted that together with our negotiating partners we have agreed on an immigration package that can rightly be called a paradigm shift,” Finns Party leader Riikka Purra told reporters alongside her government partners.

Purra, whose anti-immigration party came second in the April elections with their highest support ever, said that until now “Finland has been the only Nordic country with a looser immigration policy.”

“This changes now,” she added.

The government on Friday said it aimed to halve the number of refugees the Nordic country receives through the UN refugee agency from 1,050 a year to 500.

It also aims to establish separate social security benefit systems for immigrants and permanent residents which experts say potentially clash with the constitution.

Conditions for obtaining permanent residency and citizenship will also be tightened, Purra added, with new requirements on language skills and longer periods of residence.

Residence permits granted under international protection “will become temporary and their duration will be reduced to the EU minimum,” Purra said, adding that they will in future be “withdrawn if a person is on holiday in their country of origin”.

The government also plans to crack down on street gangs, aiming to increase penalties for gang activity and introduce new legislation that makes street gang activity a separate aggravating offence.

The gangs were a major election topic for the Finns Party, who highlighted neighbouring Sweden‘s challenges with gang shootings and bombings, laying the blame on immigrants.

In 2021, around 8.5 percent of Finland’s population, or 470,000 people, were of foreign origin.

Future Prime Minister Petteri Orpo appears to have had to concede on the immigration crackdown in order to secure support for his six-billion-euro austerity plan.

“We’ve had to make cuts and savings even where we felt bad. But at the same time we are making sure that tomorrow will be better,” Orpo said.

Finland’s debt-to-GDP ratio has risen from 64 percent in 2019 to 73 percent, which Orpo aims to address with significant cuts to spending.

“We cannot put our heads in the sand. There is no more money,” he said.

Unlike the other government parties, the eurosceptic Finns Party campaigned for a hard line on immigration, sparking conflicts in the arduous negotiations to form a government that lasted nearly two months following April’s general election.

The far-right clashed specifically with their future government ally Swedish People’s Party (RKP), which views immigrants as vital in combatting the country’s ageing population.

“I am sure that every party has had to accept things that it would not promote or that it would even oppose,” RKP leader Anna-Maja Henriksson said.

ETLA research institute in February said Finland would need to triple net immigration to address low birthrates and an ageing populace.

In the April elections, the Social Democrats led by outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin fell to third place with 43 seats, behind the National Coalition Party on 48 seats and the far right’s 46.

The four right-wing government parties hold 108 seats out of 200 in parliament.


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