Keuruu is a small town located about 61km west of the central Finnish city of Jyväskylä that has an asylum reception center that houses about 400 people. From the stories that Migrant Tales has heard from inside the Keuruu reception center, it appears that there is a breakdown of trust between the manager, Rasul Azizan, and some asylum seekers.
One source at the reception center claimed that some asylum seekers are planning to organize next week a peaceful demonstration against the manager.
One of the biggest gripes against the reception center manager is that he’s of Iranian origin,* has an allegedly authoritarian managing style and doesn’t permit asylum seekers to observe their religious and cultural practices at the reception center.
It’s nothing unusual that asylum seekers in Finland get in touch with Migrant Tales taking into account that we have written a lot about asylum reception centers run by Luona and by the Red Cross in Kolari.
Whenever an asylum seeker gets in touch with us, we take the call seriously and investigate the story as best as we can. The fact that an asylum seeker wants to get in touch with us suggests that the problem has become so big that it cannot be resolved between the asylum seekers and the management.
Visit the Keuruu asylum reception center’s Facebook page here.
If the manager prohibits religious and cultural ceremonies from taking place at the reception center, one could ask why taking into considering that for some asylum seekers religion is the only thing they have and can find strength from to face traumas like war and living in a new country.
Migrant Tales attempted on two occasions on Thursday to speak to the reception center’s manager. On both occasions, I was told that Azizan will get in touch but he never returned my call.
There might be a lot of differences in the way asylum reception centers are run in Finland. It’s clear, however, that all of them are based on human dignity and social equality rather than on restricting asylum seekers from practicing their religion and culture.
One reason why a refugee center may prohibit such religious and cultural ceremonies from taking place is because they may happen after 10pm and could disturb the neighbors.
“No, this is not the case at all [at the Keuruu center],” said a source who spoke to Migrant Tales on condition of anonymity. “The manager has an authoritarian style and he never explained why the asylum seekers cannot celebrate their religious and cultural holidays in the camp.”
Below are some of the grievances against the Keuruu reception center’s manager sent to Migrant Tales:
- The manager is Iranian and there are some asylum seekers who believe that he has a personal grudge against Afghans. Close to a million Afghans live in Iran as refugees and as second-class citizens;
- There is no cooperation between the asylum seekers and the manager. “The boss of the camp makes up his own rules, according to an asylum seeker;”
- All of the interpreters speak Farsi and are Iranian, not Afghans, who speak Dari. Both languages are close relatives but are not the same language;
- No cultural or religious ceremonies are allowed at the refugee center but Christian pastors (Pentecostal?) recently visited the camp;
- Recently, asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia had to rent a warehouse for 450 euros outside of the center for five days because they weren’t allowed to celebrate the Ashura religious holiday at the refugee center;
- Contact with Finnish people isn’t encouraged. There are no volunteer;
- The center was given used clothes and shoes from Finns. Some at the reception are asking why the clothes weren’t given to the asylum seekers;
- Some relatives of the manager, like his brother who works in the kitchen, are suspected of being employed at the center.
Migrant Tales will continue to try to get in touch with the manager.
* Migrant Tales incorrectly stated that the manager is “Iranian.” If he has Finnish citizenship he’s a Finn with Iranian origin.