HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland is prepared to start national border controls amid a growing influx of asylum seekers from neighboring Sweden, interior minister Petteri Orpo said on Monday.
“We have readiness for that (border controls) at any time, and we have already considerably tightened our policies,” Orpo told Reuters by telephone.
Police started random border checks on Saturday in the northern town of Tornio and will launch on Tuesday what the government calls “enhanced foreigner supervision” - such as random identity checks - around the country.
So far this year, about 12,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Iraq, have come to Finland, compared to just 3,600 in the whole of last year. In recent days, about 500 refugees have crossed the Finnish land border in Tornio, near the Arctic Circle, after a long journey through Sweden.
Orpo said Finland should start discussing tougher actions than border controls, without giving any details. He added that he was concerned over tensions between European Union states ahead of an interior ministers’ meeting on Tuesday.
“We need a European solution... If one cannot be found, it is clear that Finland cannot take endless numbers of asylum seekers. The line could be crossed at some point, and we haven’t actually prepared for that,” he said.
Orpo said that the flow of Iraqis through Sweden was due to the large Iraqi community that already lives in Finland and because Finland has relaxed asylum criteria.
“Apparently, it is slightly harder to get asylum from Sweden. But we will review our legislation now and we want to be on the same level with Sweden,” he added.
“Finland is a final stop in a way...The asylum seekers don’t continue their journey anywhere.”
Finland has agreed to accept a two percent share of 120,000 asylum seekers to be relocated across European Union states, but remains opposed to mandatory quotas.
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Alistair Scrutton nd Ralph Boulton