"I'm not against refugees, but I don't want them to be housed close to my home." — This has been a particularly popular argument, used by many Europeans opposed to the influx of refugees into European Union countries in recent months. At some anti-immigration protests, populist demands were made that politicians should house refugees themselves, close to their own homes.
Those who cheered for and repeated such demands will be surprised to find out that Finland's prime minister, Juha Sipila, is planning to do exactly that. On Saturday, Sipila said that he would accommodate refugees at his home in northern Finland, which was little used, according to the prime minister.
"We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help," Sipila was quoted as saying to Finnish national broadcaster YLE by Reuters. According to the news agency, the Finnish prime minister also said that the Scandinavian country now expected an influx of about 30,000 refugees this year, which is twice as much as initial predictions forecast.
Despite such announcements, Finland lags behind other E.U. countries, even its Scandinavian neighbors. Whereas Sweden accepts 317.8 asylum applications per 100,000 citizens, Finland's acceptance rate is about 14 times smaller at the moment. In his interview with YLE, Sipila suggested that his country should do more to accommodate refugees in the future.
In recent months, the xenophobic right had gained momentum in the small Scandinavian country of roughly five million citizens. Within the past 7 years, the right-wing Finns party nearly tripled its election results, and it currently has a support of about 15 percent of the populace. Finland's struggling economy has contributed to right-wing tendencies, although similar trends have also been observed in the richer Scandinavian countries.
With his efforts to position himself as a role model for his own citizens, the Finnish prime minister is not alone. In Germany, parliamentarian Martin Patzelt has pursued a similar idea and started to house two refugees at his private home earlier this summer in order to convince other Germans to do the same.