YLE called his estimate into question the following day by pointing out that positive decisions made up over a half of the roughly two million asylum decisions issued in the European Union in 2016–2017, according to statistics released by Eurostat. The number, it added, creeps up to over 1.2 million when taking into consideration also the negative decisions that were overturned after an appeal.
The same argument was made by Erna Bodström, an immigration researcher at the University of Helsinki.
“Really Juha Sipilä, do you have any evidence to support your ugly claim? According to Eurostat, over a half of asylum seekers are granted international protection,” she commented on Twitter.
Tapio Laakso, an advocacy advisor at Save the Children Finland, reminded that a half of the asylum seekers who arrived in 2015 and 2016 came from three countries plagued by serious, ongoing conflicts – Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“It’s sad that the prime minister is unable to stick to the facts when talking about asylum policy,” he lamented.
Emma Kari (Greens) urged Sipilä to correct his statement in order not to create a hostile environment toward immigrants.
“You better hope that the prime minister gave false information about asylum seekers by accident. Comments such as this incite hatred against vulnerable people and are consequently outright irresponsible when coming from the prime minister. That’s why it’s crucial that Sipilä corrects his statement,” tweeted Kari.
Sipilä also raised eyebrows by assessing that “uncontrolled immigration” and its ramifications are to blame for the recent wave of anti-immigrant demonstrations in Germany.
“It’s very problematic that we have a prime minister who makes racist violence by the far-right legitimate by remarking that it’s because of ‘uncontrolled immigration’,” said Veronika Honkasalo, a deputy chairperson of the Left Alliance.
“He is thereby providing justification for racism.”