After a very difficult month, matters are looking up for the asylum seekers of the Kolari reception center, located 214 kilometers north of the city of Kemi. “Matters have improved for us, and the new manager wants to help us,” an asylum seeker told Migrant Tales by phone. “He’s very supportive.”
According to the source, the reception center, which is managed by the Red Cross, no longer charges 10 euros for transportation and other services like gym and swimming hall fees but are now free. Before deputy manager Jari Sillantie was fired, asylum seekers were even charged 0.50 euros for a tomato or onion.
While a reception center can charge for services, used clothes and food, we have to ask if this is ethically correct taking into account that an asylum seeker at Kolari gets a monthly allowance of 92 euros.
The days of the deputy manager were counted after over 120 asylum seekers carried out a peaceful demonstration on May 4 that was reported by Lapin Kansa, a Rovaniemi-based daily. A day after Sillantie gave an interview to Helsingin Sanomat the Red Cross fired him on May 13.
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“Jari [Sillantie] never resolved any problems for us,” the source said. “He would just wash his hands and say that he couldn’t do anything to help us.”
While we don’t know what Sillantie’s motives were for managing the reception center in the way he did, his Facebook “likes” are revealing.
The former Kolari reception center deputy manager “likes” a site that is against building mosques, opposes government immigration policy and new asylum reception centers in cities like Kerava. He “likes” Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Laura Huhtasaari, an Islamophobe, who doesn’t believe in evolution.
The fact that the media picked up this story and exposed what was happening at Kolari, and the fact that the Red Cross has taken concrete steps to change things, shows that we can put things right when they are wrong.
Even if Finland has one of the most anti-immigration and anti-asylum seeker governments in a long time, we should never lose our human side and our ability to help people in need.