January 28, 2016 / 2:56 PM / in 2 years

Finland expects to expel 20,000 of last year's asylum seekers

Asylum seekers arrive at a refugee reception centre in the northern town of Tornio, Finland September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Panu Pohjola/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland expects to expel nearly 20,000 migrants out of the 32,000 who sought asylum last year, a senior official from interior ministry said on Thursday, around the normal percentage but many more people.

“20,000 is the estimate we are working with at the moment, but the number of asylum seekers who decide to return voluntarily could change it”, Permanent Secretary Paivi Nerg told Reuters.

That would be roughly 62 percent expelled. It compared with 56 percent in 2014, when there were only 3,651 applications.

Nerg said that the ministry is planning to set up separate transit centers for those to be deported from those wanting to leave the country voluntarily.

About 4,000 asylum seekers had already withdrawn their applications, she said.

Nerg said all the last year’s applications should be processed by the end of August. The vast majority of Finland’s asylum seekers last year came from Iraq.

Neighboring Sweden is likely to deport up to half last year’s record 163,000 asylum seekers either voluntarily or forcibly, its government said earlier on Thursday.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl/Jermey Gaunt

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