Finnish Prime Minister, Juha Sipila, will make his private residence available to house some of those seeking asylum in Finland. In comments made to state media, Sipila said that the home could be used in 2016 to help accommodate the unprecedented number of refugees coming to Finland.
On Friday, the Finnish government estimated that the total number of refugees seeking asylum in 2015 would be 30,000. This is twice the number originally estimated by the government and more than 8 times as many applications they received in 2014. Sipila’s Centre Party is currently in a coalition government with the anti-immigration Finns Party, making the issue even more controversial. As it stands, refugee centres are already overpopulated, with the Oulu region in the northern part of the country reporting a shortage.
Sipila’s private residence, which is rarely occupied, happens to be in that region. He said:
We should all look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we can help…My house is not being used much at the moment.
Sipila also said that churches, voluntary organizations, and citizens with the means should open their doors to refugees as well. Reeta Paakkinen, a writer from Helsinki, said that Sipila’s remarks are continuing a Finnish tradition of helping others in times of crisis. Paakkinen said that her own family has benefited from similar generosity in the past and that she “really appreciates” the Prime Minister’s offer. Journalist Heini Kuusela suggested that Finland could accept more refugees than it has, highlighting the size of the country and the availability of space. She pointed out “there is a room if there’s a will”.
The generosity shown by the Finnish Prime Minister comes just weeks after people in Iceland, another Nordic country, offered their homes to refugees. Icelanders set up a Facebook event to show the government how many of them were willing to share their homes with refugees after the Icelandic government announced it would accept only 50 asylum seekers. 17,000 citizens signed up for the event, in an effort to pressure the government to change their policy. Some have even offered to pay for flights, or foster unaccompanied children.