The Finnish government says it’s agreed to take in up to 175 primary school-aged children and single parent families from overcrowded refugee camps in Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Italy.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry says that in practice this means the asylum seekers will be from “particularly fragile countries” like Syria and Afghanistan.
“I am glad that the government parties have a common understanding to resolve the matter. In this we we can help children in need who are in a very difficult situation” says Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green).
“It is important that Finland, as a country with an external EU border, is involved in finding solutions both to the acute situation, and to a lasting situation in the European asylum system” she adds.
Reception centres in Greece in particular have been subject to overcrowding, with aid agencies warning of a breakdown in even basic services for thousands of people.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR had urged EU countries to do more to help those nations, like Greece, which had been struggling to cope.
Conditions at the Moria reception centre in Lesvos are reported to be among the worst, with shelters made from thin tents, wooden pallets and plastic sheeting; muddy paths around the camp; mouldy blankets and unhygienic conditions. The United Nations says that power and hot water are scarce, and there’s little access to medical facilities as well as repeated incidents of violence and unrest at the camp.
Finland’s Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) says that it is important for Finland to be involved in seeking solutions to the humanitarian crisis “in which children in terrible conditions suffer.”
“Last year, about 2500 asylum seekers came to Finland. That figure is lower than the years before the refugee crisis” says Henriksson.
“It is both our duty as fellow human beings, but also our international responsibility to help people in need. We have to opportunity to help and the government is doing it now” she adds.