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September 05, 2015

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Amid Europe’s migrant crisis, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila is hoping to set an example for his countrymen by opening his own spare house to refugees.

Sipila said Saturday that after some discussions and consultation with local authorities, he and his wife decided to make their house in Kempele, a town of about 17,000 in central Finland, available as of Jan. 1. The Sipilas have not used the house since moving to Helsinki.

“We all should think what we can do ourselves,” he told Finnish television channel MTV. In recent weeks, the Nordic country has seen an increase in the number of asylum seekers — people fleeing poverty and conflict in eastern European countries and the Middle East — coming to Finland via Sweden. Officials expect their number could reach 30,000 by the end of the year, compared to the 3,600 people who sought asylum in Finland in 2014.

“It is easy to outsource everything to the society. Still, society has limited possibilities. The more citizen activity we can find to this matter, the better,” he said. An asylum seeker “deserves a human treatment and genuine welcome greeting from us Finns.”

Sipila’s offer may cause some tensions in his center-right governing coalition including his own Center Party, the pro-EU conservatives and the populist, EU-skeptic Finns Party. The latter, Finland’s second largest party, has been calling for tougher immigration laws, though it has distanced itself from Europe’s far-right parties.

Sipila urged Finns to refrain from xenophobic and racist comments. “I ask everybody to stop all hate speech and concentrate on taking care of people that are fleeing from war zone, so that they feel safe and welcome here in Finland,” Sipila said.

Details of how to apply and how many people the house could accommodate weren’t immediately available.

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