HELSINKI, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Demonstrations of supporters and opponents of asylum seekers in downtown Helsinki went peacefully on Saturday, although police warned of possible skirmishes in advance.
Senior police officer Jari Taponen told Finish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that over 1,000 people were in a major square in downtown Helsinki.
The supporters of refugees gathered at southern end of the square, where as the opponents stood a hundred meters north, with the public ice ring in the middle.
In the past weeks, disgruntled asylum seekers have camped in tents to the south of the ring. "Refugee is not your enemy; Enemy is who make them refugees," read one of the posters.
"The immigration office agreed that I was threatened and my mother was killed, but still insisted Baghdad is safe for me to return to," an Iraqi named Karrar was seen telling a Finnish couple in front of the tents.
On Friday, the Ateneum Museum of Art, on the southern side of the square, placed a large poster saying refugees were welcome.
Some anti-immigration groups had announced in social media that they would "evict" the asylum seekers' tents on Saturday. The police detained one man who had behaved aggressively.
A "counter camp" has been set up north of the square for weeks, and one of the banners carried slogan "Finland first".
While the organizers said they want to differentiate from those who prefer direct action to "clean the square", the group demanded the asylum seekers to leave Finland and urged exit from the EU.
Group leader Marco de Wit told Xinhua they had gathered 4,000 signatures in the past months, and they still need 1,000 to become a political party.
Officials of the Finnish immigration authority (Migri) have visited the camp under police escort. Later a discussion event was arranged between the representatives of Migri and the asylum seekers.
Finland has tightened the criteria for giving asylum during the past year. The government has also tried to reduce the attractiveness of Finland as a destination for asylum seekers.