Asylum seekers may face a backlash in Finland where members of a neo-Nazi linked group are patrolling the streets, claiming to protect locals from refugees, Finnish media has reported.
Members of the extremist group, "Soldiers of Odin", voluntarily patrol the streets in five Finnish towns where new asylum centers opened, according to recent reports.
"We woke up to a situation where many different cultures met. It caused fear and concern in the community. We started to gather a bunch of people," Mika Ranta, one of the group’s founders, told Finnish daily newspaper Aamulehti Thursday.
"The biggest issue was when we learned from Facebook that new asylum seekers were peering through the gates of primary schools, looking at young girls," Ranta said.
There have been no reported incidents so far between asylum seekers and the far-right extremist group, which has around 500 members across Finland, according to local Finnish paper Karjalan Heili.
"Attacking is not part of our principles, only defense," three members of the group in the eastern town of Joensuu told the daily. "Everyone has the right to defend themselves if we are attacked. We defend ourselves and call the police," they said.
The Finnish government criticized the group, which the Finnish intelligence services said had members with links to far-right extremist movements, including neo-Nazi groups.
"There are extremist features to carrying out street patrols. It does not increase security," Finnish Interior Minister Petteri Orpo told national broadcaster YLE Thursday. "Volunteers have no right to use force," he said.
Finland received over 30,000 asylum applications in 2015, mostly from Iraqi applicants, according to immigration services. Finnish shipping company, Finnlines, has stepped up identity controls on its route from Travemunde in Germany to Helsinki, in an attempt to stem the flow of refugees.
Known in the world for setting the standard of accepting refugees fleeing war and persecution back home, the Nordic nations have begun to dramatically scale back on their asylum policies.
On Monday, Denmark announced it was stepping up its border controls on its southern borders with Germany; the same day as its neighbor Sweden reinforced controls for the first time since 1950s.