The Finnish government has condemned the welcoming committee for a bus-load of migrants at a small southern town last night, which pelted the vehicle and Red Cross volunteers with rocks and fireworks.
Separately last night, a nearby refugee centre was attacked with a petrol bomb. In Lahti, a small town deep in the Finnish hinterland behind capital Helsinki and significantly closer to the Russian border than the Swedish, between 30 and 40 men gathered to greet the bus. The migrants on-board had been driven some 400 miles from the Swedish border where about 500 cross into the country every day, to the former military barracks near Lahti in the south which has been converted to a reception centre, reports the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).
Rocks and fireworks were thrown at the bus in scenes that were caught by Finnish television cameras. Despite the proximity of the explosions to the bus, police, and journalists, there were no injuries.
Police made two arrests and told reporters they had no indication the protest was organised, raising the possibility that native Finns are now rising up spontaneously to protest the forcing on their communities of migrants being centrally redistributed throughout the country by the government in Helsinki. Another man was arrested in Kouvola for the petrol bomb attack. Prime Minister Juha Sipila condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying “threats and violence against asylum seekers and migrants are absolutely unacceptable.”
“Finland’s government condemns last night’s racist protests against the asylum seekers who have come to the country. Violence and threatening behaviour is always indefensible,” a government statement said.
The prime minister himself has attracted criticism for personally welcoming migrants to the country – earlier this month he offered to open his own home up to refugees. The deputy leader of the anti-mass immigration Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, PS) condemned the offer, remarking last week: “Sipila’s noble-minded gesture was like a Christmas gift for human traffickers and refugees. The news about open doors in Finland have sent many young men on a journey towards the promised land”.
ILTV reports the newly arrived migrants appealed to police, questioning whether Finland was really as safe as they had heard. Increasing numbers of migrants are now travelling through Sweden to reach the northern Nordic states which, according to rumours spread through their native communities and by people smugglers, are even better places to resettle to. Breitbart London reported the comments of a spokesperson for the Swedish immigration bureaux, who found it hard to conceive why anyone would travel all the way to Sweden and not want to stay.
She observed that Iraqi men in particular were keen to go to Finland – for no reason other than rumours circulating in Arabic among the travellers that it was a good place to go. The number of migrants arriving in Finland has increased by some 300-per-cent recently, with 13,000 arriving this year so far, compared with just 3,600 in the whole of 2014. The influx of people is the greatest movement to Finland since the Russian revolution.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this report.
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