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Refugee protestors set to clash at Lapland border

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Refugee protestors set to clash at Lapland border
A protest in Finland over the weekend. Photo: Markku Ulander/TT
10:23 CEST+02:00
Campaigners angry about rising numbers of refugees crossing into Finland from northern Sweden have announced they are planning a weekend protest, but there will also be a counter demonstration in favour of open borders.
Hundreds of people have already pledged their support to the protest against the recent rise in migrants arriving in Torneå in Finland from twin city Haparanda in northern Sweden, by joining a Facebook event for the demonstration.
 
But those in favour of maintaining freedom of movement have been quick to arrange their own alternative demonstration in an attempt to show the world that not all Lapland residents back efforts to prevent refugees from travelling between the two countries.
 
Adam Huuva, one of the organizers, told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Tuesday that locals "lived off the borderless" feel of the area and said he found it strange that some had therefore sought to campaign against this amid the hike in new arrivals from war-torn nations.
 
Finland is experiencing an unexpected influx of migrants on its border with Sweden, mostly Iraqi asylum seekers hoping to reunite with friends and family.
 
So far this year more than 13,000 asylum seekers arrived in the Nordic nation compared to just 3,600 in the whole of last year.
 
While Sweden takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation and has pledged to offer a home to all Syrians fleeing conflict in their home country, Finland has been granting asylum to a higher percentage of Iraqis (45 percent during the first half of this year) compared to Sweden (33 percent).
 
However a vocal minority of Finns have demonstrated their hostility to the rising number of new arrivals in recent weeks.
 
Earlier this month protestors in Torneå linked arms at the border to try to stop refugees from crossing into Finland, with some spotted holding banners reading signs such as 'Go home Isis'.
 

Refugees sleeping at an immigration reception centre in Lahti, Finland. Photo: Markku Ulander/TT
 
 
In the southern city of Lahti, dozens of demonstrators – some with burning torches – hurled fireworks at a bus which was transporting asylum seekers to a new reception centre last week, making global headlines.
 
One of the protesters could be seen dressed in a white hood – a symbol of the racist American Ku Klux Klan – with a Finnish flag in his hand.
 
Prime Minister Juha Sipila condemned the attack on Twitter, saying "threats and violence against asylum seekers and migrants are absolutely unacceptable".
 
However, Finland was the only European Union state to abstain from last week's vote about relocating asylum seekers across the member countries.
 
It accepted its two percent share of 120,000 asylum seekers in question but said it was opposed to a mandatory quota system.
 
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