Iraqi asylum seeker: The first Finnish word I learned was “vittu”

by , under Enrique Tessieri

It’s a Sunday and we’re at a fast-food Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Helsinki. I have an appointment with a twenty-six-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker who came to Finland in September via Tornio and who is staying at one of Luona’s asylum reception centers. Like many who have the misfortune of staying at a reception center run by Luona, he too isn’t happy about the poor and humiliating treatment he’s getting.

Apart from traumas left by the violence in his country and the long journey to Finland, which hinges on a residence permit, the treatment he gets at Luona’s reception center only exacerbates his ordeal.

Näyttökuva 2016-2-14 kello 17.14.58
“I made a big mistake coming to Finland and I’m disappointed and feel mentally sick by the situation,” said the Iraqi asylum seeker. Photo by Enrique Tessieri.

Mostafa* speaks:

“We are treated in a racist manner and like animals by Luona. In the first reception center I stayed at (managed by Luona) we were 10-12 asylum seekers in each room. We slept on the floor. People were forced to wear dirty clothes because there was only one washing machine for the whole center. The food that is served is horrible. It isn’t eatable and we don’t trust it. Even if the employees ensure us there’s no pork we can’t trust what they say. [Luona has accidentally served pork twice to asylum seekers].

The employees are racist and we don’t trust them. They [most] don’t speak Arabic and they treat us in a humilitating manner with disrespect. [1] They don’t even know our rights! They’ll call as well the police for any minor reason. A good example is what happened toMohammed Saleh Muhsin, who was locked up for 15 hours at a police cell for asking why his allowance was late. They also use the word vittu [fuck] all the time when they are with us. Vittu is the first word I learned in Finnish. 

The staff also steals clothes that was donated by people for us. The employees at Luona take the best clothes for themselves and leaves us those that are torn and which they don’t want. We have to buy everything ourselves with our 92-euro monthly allowance. 

The police are very racist in Finland. Before New Year’s day I saw a group of Finns beating an asylum seeker in front of a building [Lasinpalatsi]. The police, who were a short distance away, didn’t do anything to stop what was happening.

The Finnish employees at Luona aren’t the only ones who treat us badly. There are Kurdish employees and security guards who treat Iraqis with contempt. The way it words is simple:  Somali workers help the Somalis, the Kurds their own people and so forth.

I admit making a big mistake coming to Finland and I’m disappointed at myself for this. I feel mentally sick by the situation. Coming here was a big mistake. I’m constantly made to feel like trash and as a person who has no worth. If I ever returned back to Baghdad I’d tell others not to come Finland because they treat asylum seekers really badly.

But what can I do except accept the situation? I can’t go back home because there’s a war so I have no choice but to bear the situation, even if it’s very hard.

The death of the Afghani [Jayyed Abbas Jaffari] at Luona’s reception center in early January in Espoo raised a lot of concern among asylum seekers. It’s important that his death is cleared up. We’re not animals but humans.

If I had a chance to tell something to the Finns I’d tell them that we came here because you’re a country that respects human rights. I came here expecting to be treated like a brother but that hasn’t happened. Don’t treat us like animals. I was forced to come here because my country is at war.

I know that there are many good people in Finland and that being at the reception center is the total opposite of what Finland is like.

I cannot go back to Iraq. I don’t want to stay in Finland but I have no choice but to remain.

* Mostafa is a fictitious name. 

[1] Some sources claim that the Arabic-speaking staff makes fun of the asylum seeker. They give wrong information and cuss at them. 

  1. PS voter

    Oh please, stop insulting us for the generosity we have provided for you. It is insulting to not only refuse food that is provided to you and then say that the food is horrible. It is the same kind of food that is served to school children, at hospitals and at army to Finns.

    Why didn’t you go to some other countries, like the Arabic neighbour countries or some other country before Finland, if it is bad here? For some reason, Finland seems to be favorite target for Iraqis, as we get them so many of them compared to other EU countries. I suspect that the reason is the far too loose asylum policies which are going to bankruptcy this country.

    Please, tell other persons not to come here. Even without this uncontrolled flood of asylum seekers, Finnish economy is in very bad shape and it is only question of time when the whole welfare state collapses. This current flood of asylum seekers makes the collapse happen faster and makes it inevitable. You don’t want to be stuck to this cold country in the middle of winter, if that happens. Without food and warm shelter, surviving the winter is extremely hard or even impossible, for asylum seekers and the local population as well.

    Why do you think that there would be army of Arabic speaking employees waiting for you when you come to so distant country? That kind of wish is completely unrealistic. And there won’t be available jobs, nice homes etc waiting either. And I doubt that that one person ended up locked in police cell for just politely asking for “his” money.

    Why on earth would you think that you would be treated like a brother in this country, when you aren’t our brother, far too many asylums seekers are behaving quite badly and the country is having huge economic crisis and the flood of asylum seekers is starting to cause astronomical costs to the society and we simply cannot afford it for long? And there isn’t many free jobs available even for educated Finns who speak perfect Finnish and it is quite unrealistic to think that most of these asylum seekers would be able to find work, when they don’t speak Finnish and the average level of education of asylum seekers is very low compared to Finnish standards. You should go to some other Arabic and/or Muslim country, where you speak the local language and have about equal level of education, more familiar culture and religion. Besides, countries like Saudi-Arabia have lot of money because of oil, which is something we don’t have.

    BTW, I have spoken with my friends who are originally from Iraq. They are much more critical towards this flood of asylum seekers from Iraq and say that we shouldn’t let any of them in this country. In my opinion, some special groups like gays might have real case for getting asylum, although Finland alone isn’t big enough to take care all the gays in Iraq, as there is about 300 000 gays in Iraq alone. However, my friends from Iraq said that in their opinion none of the asylum seekers from Iraq have valid case of getting asylum in Finland. In their opinion, the only people in Iraq who are in real need of help are those so poor that they haven’t been able to travel other parts of Iraq or some neighbour countries when ISIS has spread to the areas where they are living.

    And some of my friends regularly visit Iraq and they are in touch with the relatives living in Iraq, so they have pretty good idea about the situation in Iraq. Enrique, why don’t you interview some of them? I could try to arrange you to meet some of them, if you are interested to hear also the other side of the story?

    Some time ago, I wrote a longer story about the negative things my friends, who are originally from Iraq, have told me about this current flood of asylum seekers from Iraq. They already have had many negative encounters with these asylum seekers (which is something I haven’t witnessed personally as I have had only neutral encounters so far) and had heard stories from the asylum seekers themselves, how they weren’t in any real need for asylum but just wanted to move to live here. They were also shocked how badly many of these asylum seekers were behaving in Finland and were afraid that this will ruin their own reputation, may cause terrorism and also threaten the welfare state of Finland, which is already slowly crumbling.

  2. PS voter

    Sorry for writing that text when I was already too tired, but I noticed some mistakes that I should correct:

    When I said: “They are much more critical towards this flood of asylum seekers from Iraq and say that we shouldn’t let any of them in this country” what I really meant to say was: “They are much more critical towards this flood of asylum seekers from Iraq than I am and say that we shouldn’t let any of them in this country.”

    When I said: “Some time ago, I wrote a longer story about the negative things my friends, who are originally from Iraq, have told me about this current flood of asylum seekers from Iraq” what I really meant to say was: “Some time ago on Hommaforum, I wrote a longer story about the negative things my friends, who are originally from Iraq, have told me about this current flood of asylum seekers from Iraq.”

    BTW, many immigrants from Muslim countries have been quite critical towards this flood of asylum seekers. For example:

    Alexis Kouros, whom you have so keenly quoted before, just said on TV that we should not integrate these asylum seekers to Finland but only give short and temporary refugee them (no more than a year) and then return them back (Päätoimittaja Alexis Kouros: Turvapaikanhakijoiden kotouttaminen on väärä lääke Euroopan pakolaiskriisiin, Sanna Savikko, 27 January 2016, YLE News).

    Also Ashraf Benyamin, M.D., who is originally from Egypt, has been quite critical and has said that because of this uncontrolled immigration he is scared and is thinking of moving to New Zealand with his family, because of it. He says that among other things that persons who complain about food, aren’t really in need of asylum and that we should close borders all who come without visa and thourhg many safe countries (Kairosta Kouvolaan kotoutunut Ashraf Benyamin pelkää ensi kesää, 7.2.2016, Kouvolan Sanomat). He also says that we should deport asylum seekers who practise taharrush gamae.

    Makwan Amirkhani, mixed martial artist and greco-roman wrestler, who himself came to Finland as a refugee, has given good criticism against these complainers. Here is my attemted translation of his words:

    “If I would come from poor conditions and from a country where I must be careful in order to be able to survive even tomorrow…

    I would be extremely grateful even if I would live in modest conditions. The mere fact that you feel free should be enough to satisfy your demands.

    I saw today a video where two children under 10 years of age, collect food crumbs from the midst of the stones and sand. And then here someone complains that rice is bad.”

  3. PS voter

    And here are links for the first two persons I quoted:

    Päätoimittaja Alexis Kouros: Turvapaikanhakijoiden kotouttaminen on väärä lääke Euroopan pakolaiskriisiin

    Kairosta Kouvolaan kotoutunut Ashraf Benyamin pelkää ensi kesää

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