The populist Finns Party’s second-ranking leader, Riika Slunga-Poutsalo, says she thinks the citizenship requirements for asylum seekers to Finland should be re-evaluated and tightened if necessary, in line with what she calls the Danish model.
In an interview with the Jyväskylä-based newspaper Keskisuomalainen published Saturday, the party secretary said she would promote more stringent language proficiency requirements, longer periods of residence in the country and higher levels of financial self-reliance.
“These things must be reassessed. I think an unconditional requirement for citizenship should be a sufficient level of personal income. Asylum recipients should be building up the Finnish society along with the rest of Finland’s residents,” the paper quotes her as saying.
What Danish model?
Her reference to the Danish model alludes to Denmark’s decision in October 2015 to approve stricter citizenship requirements. Applicants are now be required to pass an oral and written exam in Danish 3 instead of Danish 2, prove that they have supported themselves for 4.5 out of the last five years, instead of the previous 2.5 years, answer at least 22 of 30 questions correctly on a citizenship exam, and show a clean criminal record for the last six years.
Slunga-Poutsalo also said in the interview that Finland should be preparing for another wave of displaced people entering the country.
“The situation in Europe is difficult and anything could happen in the future,” she said.
Critics have accused the government and her party in particular of being stridently anti-immigrant in their efforts to tighten asylum policy and make family reunification more difficult, for example.
Should have done it sooner
Yet all in all, the party secretary tells Keskisuomalainen that she is satisfied with the asylum policy enacted by the current government coalition, of which her Finns Party is a member.
“The government has made a lot of good changes. It would have of course been better had they come into force before the torrent of asylum seekers entering in the country began. We would have gotten off a lot easier,” Slunga-Poutsalo said.
She said she sometimes wonders if asylum and residence permits are granted for the right reasons.
“For example, it seems kind of odd to me that a person who has been granted asylum in Finland goes on holiday to the country they escaped from. It makes you wonder whether they really were in need of asylum in the first place.”
On the campaign trail
Slunga-Poutsalo has served in the Finns Party’s number two position for just over three years. She is currently traversing the country to drum up support for her party ahead of the municipal elections.
She says the message she has received from the field is clear.
“I have received the most feedback on immigration policy. It is a hot topic in this country.”
Polls from several different sources indicate that the Finn Party has lost almost half of its support since the last general election. For example, the latest Yle survey found that 8.4 percent of the close to 2,500 people polled supported the Finns Party, suggesting that the party has dropped from second most popular position in April 2015 to sixth place among the eight significant political parties in Finland.
Yle News, Keskisuomalainen