New research by a group representing Finland’s municipalities suggests a majority of people do not want more refugees living in their area.
A survey commissioned by the Local Government Development Fund, KAKS, found that 43 percent of respondents were against any further resettlement of people who have been a granted residence permit in their municipality. 31 percent said they would be happy for their area to house more refugees, while 26 percent said they could not answer.
Thousands of places are now required across Finland for people who have been grant a residence permits after applying for asylum. Municipalities can choose whether or not to take in refugees who have been granted asylum, in return for extra funding from central government. The newcomers are housed and entered onto integration courses, which comprise language lessons and efforts to help them find employment.
So far 2,500 places have been found across the country, of an estimated 10,000 total places that will be required.
Of those people resettled, 1,100 are to be housed in reception centres, which are most commonly used as accomodation for people who are awaiting an asylum decision and have not got a residence permit. The refugees housed in reception centres can freely move out if they find themselves somewhere to live.
Antti Mykkänen from the Local Government Development Fund said the results did not show much difference in attitudes between respondents in rural and urban areas. Supporters of the Green, Left Alliance and Centre Party had the most welcoming attitudes, while almost 80 percent of Finns Party voters said they do not want more refugees resettled in their municipality.
The poll, carried out online by TNS Gallup in mid-March, asked just over 1,000 people aged 18-75 “Should more asylum seekers who have been granted residence permits in Finland be resettled in your municipality?” The margin of error is around three percentage points in either direction.
Reception centres more positively received
Results of the poll suggests people have less negative attitudes towards refugees being housed in reception centres than to their living in private dwellings in the local community.
In response to the question of how they feel about more reception centres being established in their municipality, around 30 percent said they were in favour of more centres being set up. 26 percent were against and the majority, 40 percent, said they had neither positive nor negative feelings on the subject.
Respondents aged 41-50 were found to be the most likely to answer negatively.
If a reception centre is set up in a privately rented property and is maintained by an outside agency such as the Red Cross, the centre’s owners do not have to gain permission from the municipality before setting up. 46 percent of respondents said the municipality should be able to block new reception centres, while 41 percent said they are happy with the current system.
At the end of March the Immigration Service announced the closure of 33 reception centres after a reduction in the number of asylum seekers in Finland since last autumn’s peak.