Europe News

Finland's millionaire prime minister offers his home to refugees

Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipila visits a reception centre in Oulu, Northern Finland September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Markku Ruottinen/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s millionaire prime minister, Juha Sipila, said on Saturday he would make his home in the north of the country available to refugees.

As European leaders struggle to agree policies to cope with a huge influx of migrants, many fleeing war in Syria, Sipila -- a former telecoms executive -- said asylum seekers would be able to stay at his home in Kempele from early 2016.

Sipila, who has another house near the capital Helsinki as well as a government residence, said the building in Kempele was little used at the moment.

“We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help,” he said in an interview with national broadcaster YLE.

Sipila’s comments follow a public outcry over the opening of refugee reception centers in towns around the sparsely populated Nordic country.

Finland is not used to mass immigration, and the center-right government is struggling to handle the situation amid deep spending cuts and rising unemployment in the recession-hit country.

The government on Friday doubled its estimate for the number of asylum seekers in the country this year to up to 30,000, compared with just 3,600 last year.

Sipila also told YLE an European Union plan to distribute 120,000 refugees arriving in Greece, Italy and Hungary to countries around the EU should be voluntary, and hoped Finland could set an example.

Reporting by Anna Ercanbrack and Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Mark Potter