The Nordic country’s new-minted Interior Minister is ready to take in as many as 10,000 refugees, which is ten times Finland’s share of today – if the EU agrees on a common solution.
Second-generation MP and Finland’s former Trade Minister Kai Mykkänen of the National Coalition Party, who was sworn into office on Monday, is ready to significantly increase the number of resettlement refugees his nation receives each year, according to the Hufvudstadsbladet daily.
Should the EU prove itself capable of reaching a common ground on this issue, Mykkänen is ready to blow up his country’s share to 10,000 refugees a year, as opposed to between 750 and 1,050 annually received by Finland in recent years.
According to Mykkänen, a prerequisite for such a drastic measure is that quota immigration becomes the primary way for asylum seekers to enter the EU, citing the present-day problem of overcrowded refugee accommodations.
“We need to find less bad solutions than people smuggling their way into Europe and then wandering from country to country. For now, asylum seekers are mostly limited to those who have the money and the ability to move,” Mykkänen explained his stance to national broadcaster Yle.
According to Mykkänen, it would be a positive step to pick out more asylum seekers from refugee camps on the spot. This measure, however, would lead to a substantial increase in the number of quota refugees, but would admittedly ease the plight of those who lack the money or the opportunity to travel to Europe to seek asylum.
As such a step would require coordinated efforts from the EU, Mykkänen stressed that he was prepared to follow the government’s line and was unwilling to cause major changes in the number of quota refugees unless fellow EU countries chose to change their routines accordingly.
Nevertheless, Mykkänen’s stance triggered strong criticism from the right-wing Finns Party.
“There are thousands of people living in Finland illegally right now. At the same time, we get a National Coalition minister who is ready to green-light an increase the number of quota refugees in the future. This is in no way possible for Finland,” a statement by the Finns published in the party newspaper Suomen Uutiset said.
Nevertheless, Mykkänen’s fellow party members proved more cheerful.
“Great, @KaiMykkanen! Refugee quotas should be raised as a safe route to protecting those in need,” Saara-Sofia Sirén tweeted, stressing that more than half of the world’s refugees were children.
Kai Mykkänen became the Minister of the Interior after his party colleague Paula Risikko was elected speaker of parliament. By his own admission, he was “humbled” to tackle “one of the most important issues of this generation,” how to face newcomers humanely while making sure not to create a divide between Finland’s legal and illegal residents. Mykkänen stressed the importance of not cherry-picking foreign skilled workers, but guarantee the successful integration of all legal immigrants in the Nordic country. According to him, the issue is whether Finland is percieved as an international or an insular country.
Mykkänen entered the government in June 2016 and has been since working as Trade and Development Minister.
Mykkänen is 38 years old and previously worked as the director of the Confederation of the Finnish Industries (EK). He is the son of the National Coalition MP Jouni Mykkänen. Kai Mykkänen has been sometimes described as a “green liberal conservative.” Incidentally, Finland’s Greens have previously proposed raising the quote, albeit to a more modest 2,500.