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Finland To Follow Sweden In Expelling Nearly 20,000 Migrants

Asylum seekers wait to cross the border between Finland and Russia at Salla, on the Russian side of the border, on January 23.
Asylum seekers wait to cross the border between Finland and Russia at Salla, on the Russian side of the border, on January 23.

One day after Sweden disclosed plans to deport up to 80,000 migrants, a senior official said Finland expects to expel nearly 20,000 migrants out of the 32,000 who sought asylum there last year.

Interior Ministry Secretary Paivi Nerg said the Nordic nation expects to reject the asylum applications of nearly two-thirds of those who applied in 2015, compared with a 56 percent rejection rate in 2014.

"In previous years around 60 percent [of applicants] received a negative decision but now we have somewhat tightened our criteria for Iraqis, Afghans, and Somalis," she told AFP.

In 2015, Finland made it more difficult for migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia to get asylum, concluding that the security situation had eased in those countries.

About 20,000 of Finland's asylum-seekers in 2015 came from Iraq.

Nerg said two charter flights to deport Iraqis are planned within months. She said the deportations will take place gradually, as immigration authorities process applications.

The ministry will set up separate transit centers for those who leave voluntarily and those who must be forced out, she said.

About 4,000 asylum seekers have already withdrawn their applications, she said.

Swedish officials told Swedish media on January 27 that they expect to deport up to half of last year's record 163,000 asylum seekers. Many of those expulsions also will be forced by the authorities, although they are seeking voluntary compliance.

Finland is currently in negotiations with neighboring Russia to stop migrants from entering Finland via the Arctic region.

After Norway barred migrants from entering the country on its Arctic border crossing with Russia in December, the flow of migrants turned toward Finland.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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