Finland says asylum seekers should work for free

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s government will require asylum seekers to work for free and to acknowledge a “national curriculum” on Finnish culture and society, it said on Tuesday, launching measures to tighten its immigration policy.

Asylum seekers attend the "Let's play bAll together" event, which is a sports and welcoming event arranged by the locals for refugees, at a refugee center in Hennala, Lahti, Finland September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Martti Kainulainen/Lehtikuva

It will also regularly reassess conditions in the asylum seekers’ home countries twice a year, and if necessary, cancel residence permits accordingly.

After its latest reassessment on Afghanistan, it said it would no longer grant subsidiary protection, claimed by people who say they face death or torture, to asylum seekers from South and East Afghanistan.

“The new set of measures will tighten our practices and erase possible attractiveness factors,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila told reporters.

About 32,000 asylum seekers have come to the Nordic country this year, compared to just 3,600 last year, as refugees and migrants pour into Europe fleeing war and poverty.

The government said it will speed up the return of migrants who don’t qualify for asylum. It estimated around two thirds will be rejected.

With the economy set to shrink for a fourth successive year, anti-immigrant sentiment has increased after police last month reported it was investigating a few cases where asylum seekers are suspected of rape. Violent hate crime against the asylum seekers has also picked up.

The government said it will start assigning work to working-age asylum seekers on the grounds that meaningful action would help relieve their frustration.

“It is not necessarily paid work, it could be something outdoors, some maintenance work at the reception center ... The longer that people are idle, the more frustrated they become,” said employment minister Jari Lindstrom.

The government will also compose an information package on Finnish culture and society, highlighting the rights of women and children.

“All asylum seekers will acknowledge it as received. No one can be able to say that they didn’t know,” Lindstrom said.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Ruth Pitchford