Beri Jamal, Zimema Mhone and Enrique Tessieri
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon of June when Migrant Tales met Majid, an Iraqi asylum seeker who attempted to take his life after he had lost all hope.
At first glance, Majid had the appearance of many young asylum seekers you’d meet in Finland. But it was his story that stood out from the rest of them.
According to Majid, the assessment by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), which claimed that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia are “safe” to return asylum seekers, was what caused him to lose hope. The long waiting for a residence permit is another reason he cites as were the high negative decisions by Migri.
Reader discretion is advised.
Majid: “The day after the [Oikeus elää – Right to live –الحق للعيش] demonstration [in Helsinki]… after I returned to the refugee centre… I felt that nothing will change and it made me really sad. I thought that if they send me back to Iraq… I will still die, so in every way, I was condemned to die by Migri.
[When I decided to take my life] I was awake until three o’clock in the morning. It was then that I decided I did not want to live any longer.
I took a knife and stabbed myself five times on the top of my head until I started bleeding profusely. I tied up towels and made a long enough noose and tied it to the ceiling. I then took a trash can that was in the room… stood on it… tied the noose around my neck… and tilted the bucket until my body was hanging from the ceiling.
Earlier, one of the guys I shared a room with, notified the refugee center’s security guards. He had a feeling that I going to commit suicide.
I was unconscious when the security guards found me…. and when I woke up, I found myself in a hospital. The situation is very complex and difficult to explain, and I do not know what my future holds.
I don’t know if the Finnish government will allow us [Iraqis] to live or die. And if I begin to lose hope again… I will repeat what I did. To go back to Iraq? I will never do it. I am dead either way.
Majid:”I felt that nothing will change… and it made me really sad. I thought that if they send me back to Iraq… I will still die, so in every way, I was condemned to die by Migri.” Photo: Enrique Tessieri
Majid: “We came here because we were looking for security and to avoid being killed…I want to say again that we didn’t come here because we’re after your money, absolutely not.” Photo: Enrique Tessieri
It was the day after [the militias] killed my brother when I decided to flee Iraq. We went first to Turkey, then we were taken across the sea, which was very dangerous. We thought we would die. [From Greece] we travelled by foot through Serbia and Hungary. During the journey, we experienced everything from fear, terror, and threats from people around us. We even saw refugees kill one another.
During the 26 days we were traveling, we [sometimes] did not know the way out or how we’d get to the next point.
We came here [to Finland] because we were looking for security and avoiding being killed…I want to say again that we didn’t come here because we’re after your money, absolutely not.
The waiting [for a positive decision from Migri on our asylum applications] was [another] the reason why I tried to take my own life. Waiting for a decision from Migri is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. The other reason was that Migri proclaimed Iraq to be a safe country [to return asylum seekers]… it made me give up hope completely in the situation.
My brother was killed before my eyes, and before that my father died in the same way earlier. It is not easy to face two deaths from your family in the same year.
But [Iraq] isn’t a safe country…
The reason for the violence [in my country] now is the government… and not only the government but the militias as well. They are the main problems in Iraq, and both control Iraq right now.
So if the government is made up of militias… and if someone threatens you against whom do you file charges? Do we point the finger at the government about its crimes? That’s the reason why I wanted to get out of there, there is no official body to turn to for help.
This is what is going on in Iraq right now… if you complain to the government… they will send someone after you without you knowing it. You get killed and nobody can do anything about it… it’s like what happened to my brother. They murdered him and I do not know to whom I can turn to get justice for his death.
The first thought I had when I came to Helsinki by ship was that there was still hope and that we will be able to live in a country where there is security and peace. But apparently it is not so… because we have waited such a long time and no decision has come yet to get asylum from Migri.
Obviously, there’s a big difference between the situation now and the situation [in Finland] 7 months ago. In the past, we heard that applications for asylum were never rejected. But now, out of a hundred people… only two to four get asylum. We are not told why.
In Iraq, my mom and my relatives, who are minors, cannot support the family. So their situation is very bad and I am worried. The militia and government know that I fled to Finland.
It has been difficult for me to communicate with Finnish people because of the language barrier. Therefore, every day is hard for me. To put it simply, I only eat and sleep.”
* Majid’s real name was changed.