The Finnish government has condemned a racist attack on refugees arriving in the country that saw protesters, including one dressed in Ku Klux Klan attire, throwing stones and lighting fireworks outside a reception centre.
The incident came as a bus carrying 49 refugees, mostly from war-torn Iraq, arrived at a former army barracks recently reconfigured to welcome refugees in Lahti, north of Helsinki. They were met by about 40 violent firework-throwing demonstrators who also hurdled stones at Red Cross workers and sounded loud horns, local broadcaster Yle reported.
One attacker wore a Ku Klux Klan-like white robe with pointed hat covering his face. The refugees, including children, were escorted by police and social workers inside the premises. No one was injured and police did not immediately make any arrests.
The incident was deplored by the leaders of the country's three-party government coalition. "Violence or the threat of violence is always to be condemned," the statement signed by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini and Minister of Finance Alexander Stubb read. "Finland is an international, open and tolerant country, the vast majority of whose population is positive towards immigrants".
Separately Soini, who heads the populist and EU-sceptic Finns Party, which campaigns for tougher immigration policies, used even harsher words to decry the protest. "The Ku Klux Klan is a racist and misanthropic organisation. Linking the Finnish flag with it is disgusting," he told Yle's Radio 1.
Finland, which expects to receive some 30,000 asylum-seekers this year, ten times more than in 2014, was the only EU country to abstain on a vote to approve the relocation of 120,000 refugees across the 28-nation-bloc earlier this week. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and the Czech Republic voted against.
However PM Sipila has even offered to open his own house to refugees, pledging to host some his private residence in Kempele, in the north of the country.