Finnish PM halts plan to house refugees at his home

Finnish PM halts plan to house refugees at his home
Finland's Prime minister Juha Sipila

Helsinki - Finland's centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila has backtracked from his plans to house asylum seekers at his country house for security reasons, a government official said Tuesday.

"The prime minister has decided that at this stage and situation no one will be placed in his residence in Kempele," the government's security chief Jari Ylitalo told AFP.

Sipila, a former businessman who has headed a centre-right government since May, vowed on state television in September to host refugees at his country home in Kempele, more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) north of the capital Helsinki.

"I hope this becomes some kind of people's movement that will inspire many others to shoulder part of the burden in this refugee housing crisis," Sipila had said at the time.

After his announcement, Finland registered an unprecedented flow of mostly Iraqi migrants, totalling over 32,000 in 2015, prompting some citizens to accuse Sipila of attracting them to Finland with his offer.

But Ylitalo said Sipila's plan to house a migrant family was changed due to the government's "security assessment".

"One major reason was that the place became so public and the matter drew so much attention. Then what would the actual chances for the family be to move in and start a life and live in peace from the publicity?" Ylitalo said.

Sipila, who was a newcomer to politics when he ran for office last year, commented the decision in a recent interview with national broadcaster YLE.

"Due to the wide publicity it is not sensible at the moment. We will support... a large family with children by other means until the authorities estimate it is safe to use our home," Sipila explained.

Last week the interior ministry announced that around 20,000 of the 32,000 asylum applications Finland received last year would likely be rejected and those people expelled.

Helsinki is currently in diplomatic negotiations with neighbouring Russia to stop more migrants from entering Finland via the Arctic region.

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