September 18, 2015 / 12:13 PM / 4 years ago

Finnish PM says refugee inflow through Sweden is growing

Iraqi refugees wait for a train to Helsinki together with members of labour union PAM, who are traveling to attend Friday's protest strike in Helsinki, at Kemi railway station in northwestern Finland, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila on Friday said the influx of asylum seekers through neighboring Sweden was growing, adding that his recession-hit country’s economic situation was now a smaller problem than the refugee crisis.

The government said more than 11,000 asylum seekers, most from Iraq, have come to Finland so far this year, compared to just 3,600 in the whole last year.

It said the situation was getting tough in Tornio, in north of the country, where refugees come through the Swedish border after a long journey.

More than 500 refugees crossed the land border on Thursday and the government expected up to 1,000 arrivals on Friday.

“I think our economic situation has become a smaller problem than the challenge from the refugees... We are monitoring the situation hour by hour,” Sipila told a news conference.

Last week, Finland agreed to accept its two percent share of 120,000 asylum seekers to be relocated across European Union states, but said it remained opposed to a mandatory quotas.

The government is looking to lower asylum seekers’ cash benefit, now 316 euros ($356) a month for a single adult without meals, and aims to cut social integration benefits.

It is also planning to increase capital gains tax and income tax on high earners to help pay for higher immigration costs.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Toby Chopra

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