A fight that took place today between two families at the Kolari asylum reception center forced five police service vans and 12-15 police to arrive at the camp, which is located in a far-flung village of 3,857 inhabitants, according to sources contacted by Migrant Tales. The fight is one matter but what the police allegedly told an asylum seeker is equally worrying.
While some may see dispatching five squad cars to break up a fight between two families as an exaggeration and a waste of taxpayers’ money, it’s what the police sometimes says and does that can cause concern.
While we want to believe that the police service tries to be impartial and do its job professionally, we sometimes learn that this isn’t the case.
If the story of an asylum seeker is to be believed at the Kolari reception center, two police told him that they didn’t want to speak to him, a potential witness of the fight, “because he [and another person] at the camp cause problems [like organizing a peaceful demonstration this month against the manager].”
The source claimed that the two policemen, who were in the presence of a Red Cross employee, told the asylum seeker that they would be “sent back to their country if they didn’t stop causing trouble.”
If this is the case, we consider the police to have crossed the line. Asylum seekers, like us, are guaranteed the human right to demonstrate.
Moreover, is this the job of the Finnish police to tell them that they’ll be deported if they don’t shut their mouths up? If this actually happened today, what does it say about the Red Cross employee who didn’t react to what the police said?
For one it shows that matters are still in pretty bad shape at the Kolari asylum reception center.
Migrant Tales insight: When I read Ruth Waweru-Folabit’s story on Facebook below I wondered what is going on with this country. She is a black woman from Kenya sitting with her two children aged 8 and 3 years with another woman, a white USAmerican and her two children aged 8 and 5 years. It happened in the Helsinki neighborhood of Herttoniemi.
What is most upsetting about this story is that the police didn’t bother to ask her if she wanted to press charges against the woman that insulted her in a racist manner in public and threw a bucket of water on her, her two children and her friend’s children.
“When another neighbor told the woman to shut up, she called her an n-word lover,” Waweru-Folabit said. “She said that she was a Finn, and therefore, nothing would happen to her [for harassing her in a racist manner and throwing a bucket of water].”
Now here’s one question that we should all ask: What would happen if Ruth Waeru-Folabit threw a bucket of water on a white Finn and started to insult her in the same was as she was insulted.
Ruth Waseru-Folabit said she would press charges against the women and would get in touch with the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman tomorrow.
This Facebook posting was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.
Migrant Tales insight: This post by Alex Alex is a reminder of how big of a problem racism is and how little we have done as a society to challenge it. Helsingin Sanomat picked up the story.
There is a strong argument that the Kolari reception center, located in the far-flung village of 3,857 inhabitants in the middle of nowhere, is a copy of Perussuomalaiset (PS)* and specifically Social Welfare Minister Hanna Mäntylä’s contempt against asylum seekers and of regional policy that is unconstitutional.
In January 2015, the PS suggested sending unemployed migrants to live in far-flung regions of Finland, according to the party’s official immigration policy. If an unemployed migrant refused, their welfare and unemployment benefits would be affected.
While such policies are a clear violation of human rights and of Section 6 of our Constitution, which guarantees that we are all equal before the law irrespective of one’s background, they are tested with dismal results at the Kolari asylum reception center.
Read full PS immigration program (in Finnish) here.
Unhappiness at the Kolari reception center runs high. Below are two messages from an asylum seeker published in a precent Migrant Tales story:
Even if the deputy manager of the Kolari asylum reception center, Jari Sillantie, got fired on Thursday, matters at the camp haven’t gotten any better, according to an asylum seeker contacted by Migrant Tales.
“We’re served the same food [soup] for three days and when we ask why the staff doesn’t want to talk to us,” the asylum seeker said. “They hate us. Two employees told us that if we don’t like things here, we can go back to our country.”
The asylum seeker believes that the staff “hates them” because of what happened to the deputy manager on Thursday.
How does one react if the employee told the asylum seeker that he should leave Finland if he doesn’t like it? What about if an asylum seeker at the Kolari reception center sends you the following messages below on Wednesday and Friday?
Edited version: “If you can please help us to move from here because I swear we are very tired and we are dying here. Please (help us to) move from here.
Edited version: “Hi brother, please help us as we are very hungry. We don’t eat the same food they serve us every day. No one eats it: the children, women. Everyone here is tired if you can just help us so we can move the whole family from here.”
Finland was hard pressed to set up reception centers last year to house some 32,500 asylum seekers. In that quest, it’s understandable that some mistakes were made when hiring staff. What is commendable is that the Finnish Immigration Service succeeded at finding a reception center place for each of the asylum seekers.
Even if the challenges were formidable, there were mistakes made in the rush to establish these reception centers and to hire people. Migrant Tales has written a lot of stories about such challenges at Luona-run reception centers in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Hyvinkää.
On Thursday, YLE reported that the deputy manager of the Kolar asylum reception center, Jari Sillantie, was relieved of his duties because “he wasn’t suited for the job,” according to Helsingin Sanomat, which quotes the Red Cross.
Is Sillantie suitable for the job?
Special thanks to Rovaniemi-based daily Lapin Kansa, YLE and Helsingin Sanomat that some solution to the ordeal of 129 asylum seekers at the Kolari reception center has ended with the sacking of Jari Sillantie, the deputy manager of the camp, according to YLE. One of the biggest complaints that the asylum seekers had was Sillantie.
Migrant Tales will publish more news on this and ask what the asylum seekers feel about this decision.
Read full story here.
Monish Bhatia and Victoria Canning
Two recent reviews of immigration detention offer a contrast in their approach to the fundamental injustice of immigration detention and in their usefulness to campaigners.
It has been four months since the publication of two key reviews of immigration detention: the Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons undertaken by former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw, and the Serco-commissioned Independent Investigation into Concerns about Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre conducted by Kate Lampard and Ed Marsden. Both reviews have been broadly welcomed across the refugee sector. Although the remit for Shaw’s review excluded the issue of detention in and of itself, he advocated banning the detention of pregnant women and suggested there should be a ‘presumption against detention’ of sexual violence victims, victims of FGM, people with learning difficulties, those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and transgender people. In all, Shaw made sixty-four recommendations, while the Yarl’s Wood review made thirty-five recommendations, Serco agreeing thirty-two of them.
Of course, reviews and ‘independent investigations’ must be approached with a degree of scepticism. Institutional racism within the police did not disappear after the Macpherson report, and in fact seems as pervasive as ever in some areas; vulnerable women are still arbitrarily detained in prisons and immigration removal centres (IRCs) five years after the Corston report, and despite the Harris Review, young people still end their own lives in prison and detention. And since the Shaw and Yarl’s Wood reviews and recommendations were published in January, the IRC estate has again been plagued by reports of violence and abuse. Only a month after the reviews’ dual releases, Amir Siman-Tov died in IRC Colnbrook. Amir, a Moroccan man in his thirties, had been placed on suicide watch at the time. Less than a month after that, women in Yarl’s Wood held hand-written signs on t-shirts which read ‘Yarl’s Wood officers in relationships with vulnerable detainees’ out of the restricted openings in their windows, communicating allegations of abuse to protesters surrounding the facility. Photos from Pennine House have since surfaced which show an 18-year-old rape survivor being dragged down stairs whilst resisting immigration officers. On 4 April, the Home Office released statistics showing that suicide attempts in British IRCs are at an all-time high.
So what function do the reviews serve?
The limitations of the reviews
If we look at these reviews of immigration detention specifically, in each case, the terms of reference were drawn narrowly. Neither review was permitted to consider the big issues: the over-use of detention, indefinite detention, privatisation or time limiting, even though the government had only recently rejected the calls for a 28-day limit. Shaw was told not to consider detention per se but to limit his scrutiny to the treatment of vulnerable people in detention, while Lampard was restricted to reviewing ‘the culture and practices at Yarl’s Wood as they relate to the welfare and wellbeing of residents’. In Shaw’s case, he was assisted by two Home Office officials, arguably undermining the review’s structural independence.