Lives are put on hold at the Karhula, Finland, refugee center

by , under Enrique

Have you ever visited a refugee center in Finland? I did on Sunday in Karhula, located 130km east of Helsinki. The refugee center, which comprises of two four-story blocks, revealed some of its inhabitants when you reached a small court in its middle hidden from the outside world. 

The court, which had bed sheets and clothes drying on each of the buildings’ floors in the damp and rainy afternoon day, surprised and shocked me. Do people live here? It must be depressing, I thought.

The feeling is something like being at a railway station or airport transit lounge, where there is a sense of hope even if you are in a no-man’s or woman’s land.  The refugee center is different from the optimistic anticipation you may feel at a railway station or airport. The only thing missing is that don’t know where the next station will be.

Two asylum-seekers from Africa started speaking to me from the second floor while four children, aged about seven, who asked me to take a picture of them.  All four spoke fluent Finnish, which suggested that their parents had lived at the refugee center for quite some time.

“How long have you lived here,” I asked.

Nobody knew or answered back.

One of the children appeared disturbed and hyperactive. The only girl in the group told me proudly about a spare bike tire, which is used as a swing. She asked me to take a picture of her next to the so-called swing.

A former asylum-seeker with whom I visited the refugee center told me that some people wait 2-4 years for a positive decision, even longer, to remain in Finland.

“You live in constant fear in a refugee center because you never know when you’ll be deported,” he said. “Your life is on hold. Apart from fear, you are mocked by a near-constant sense of pessimism.”

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 If there is a picture that says it all about the refugee centers, its this one. Everything is broken.
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 The Karhula refugee center is a depressing place.
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As if hidden from the outside world, a small court instantly appears. It shocks you.

 

  1. Yossie

    “some people wait 2-4 years for a positive decision”

    Sure they do when they appeal and reappeal for their decisions. Then again, I agree, the decision should come fast and should be final.

    “If there is a picture that says it all about the refugee centers, its this one. Everything is broken.”

    Immigrants would do well to take care of their things. Doesnt look like it.

    “The Karhula refugee center is a depressing place.”

    Those appartments are exactly like in which many finns live! What do you exactly want? Penthouses in downtown Helsinki?

    • ct

      I agree. Those appartments are the same depressing place in which many finns live.
      Maybe, he was refering to the atmosphere is depressing? Not the architecture of the building…

    • PS voter

      “some people wait 2-4 years for a positive decision”

      Sure they do when they appeal and reappeal for their decisions. Then again, I agree, the decision should come fast and should be final.

      That is not the only reason. One other reason is that majority asylum seekers don’t have valid identification documents. Many of them destroy passport one the last leg of their journey. It causes a lot of additional effort to try to make sure that the person is really who (s)he says that be.

      I understand why some war criminals try to hide their true identity, but they are small minority among all asylum seekers. I wonder why so large proportion of other asylum seekers destroy their identity documents, like passport. Could Migrant Tales offer reasonable explanations for this phenomenon?

    • JusticeDemon

      majority asylum seekers don’t have valid identification documents

      I don’t know what “majority asylum” is, so let’s assume that you meant “most”.

      What is the source of your claim that most asylum seekers lack valid identification documents?

      Please don’t tell us that you heard it from some imaginary friend.

  2. Joonas

    What exactly was so shocking about the refugee center? The building looks exactly like any other building in Finland, the refugees themselves have put the sheets/clothes to dry and even I used a spare bike tire as swing when I was a kid.

    But I agree that waiting 2-4 years of positive/negative decision is way too long time. They should make it more efficient and faster.

  3. ohdake

    This one is really hilarious. Assuming we are talking about what can be seen from the images. Wooden fences, stone tiled courtyards & wooden patios are actually quite a bit above the ‘standards’ that can be seen locally. Concrete on the balconies – where clean concrete can be seen – is not ‘weeping’ which is often a fairly good indicator for the relatively good condition of the apartments (at least their external surfaces).

    • Mark

      Ohdake

      So, your response to a story talking about the sense of desperation of having your life ‘on hold’ for several years while being forced to live in a block with few facilities is “really hilarious’? This is how you approach immigrants. You laugh at their circumstances and predicament, you laugh at us for pointing it out – none of it should be taken seriously!!!

      The bikes were broken. The tire swing is not normal in Finland for an apartment block – most blocks will have a safe playing area for children. The sheets and carpets hanging suggest that there are no drying rooms in the building. Even in normal circumstances of living, bikes that function, a play area for the kids, drying facilities in the building, these are pretty basic features of the lives of Finns. The lack of these suggests that the quality of life of these people ‘in transition’ is not particularly highly valued, even from a basic human standpoint. As an introduction into the mature and supportive Finnish way of life, it probably fails miserably.

      The key thing though is that you do not respond at all to the real emotional circumstances of people in living in these circumstances, and nor do you make any connections with the environment as being a possible way to alleviate the stress and uncertainty of those circumstances.

      Once again you show an alarming failure to extend the hand of compassion to people in less fortunate circumstances.

      T

  4. PS voter

    The bikes were broken. The tire swing is not normal in Finland for an apartment block – most blocks will have a safe playing area for children. The sheets and carpets hanging suggest that there are no drying rooms in the building. Even in normal circumstances of living, bikes that function, a play area for the kids, drying facilities in the building, these are pretty basic features of the lives of Finns.

    Who owns the bikes, what has broken the bikes and why the owners have not fixed them? If the asylum-seekers own the bikes, it is their responsibility to take care of their bikes.

    Tire swing is actually quite typical type of swing. And if you use Google maps street view to look the backyard of those building from a crossing street, you can recognize that there seems to be at least a playground slide, a swing and a sandbox. Enrique just choose not to photograph those.

    Drying room is not a standard feature of apartment buildings in Finland. Some buildings have them and some do not have. And even in building that do have them, many people prefer not to use them, for example, because clothes may get stolen or if tends to be full of other peoples clothes.

  5. ohdake

    It wouldn’t hurt if you actually read the posts too Mark instead of sniping at statements separated from their context. Next statement clearly marked that the post was only and solely about the content that can be seen from the images. It is not exactly my fault if you can not understand English is it? I failed to see any point to comment the duration any further as Joonas had already done so.

    Broken bikes are not that uncommon sight near apartment blocks to be honest. Lack of dedicated drying room is not exactly that shocking either – there are plenty of normal apartment blocks without any. As the images do not show what of ‘swing’ they had it is rather difficult to comment on that. However the nearest playground there is has several swings, all being car tire swings so that is not really shocking either.

    So I can’t really see much difference between those accommodations and those which i can see daily near where i live. Those less fortunate still have accommodations and a chance to rest without any immediate threats. Perhaps you are too used to your life of luxury?

    • Mark

      Ohdake

      It wouldn’t hurt if you actually read the posts too Mark instead of sniping at statements separated from their context. Next statement clearly marked that the post was only and solely about the content that can be seen from the images. It is not exactly my fault if you can not understand English is it? I failed to see any point to comment the duration any further as Joonas had already done so.

      Stop your carping. You didn’t refer to Joonas or validate any of his points, so why should I make some kind of psychic leap to understanding that you were agreeing with Joonas’s points? I don’t understand English? What a JOKER! You mean I don’t understand what you choose NOT to write about. Give me a break! Sorry, but I do not suffer fools gladly on this site!

      Broken bikes are not that uncommon sight near apartment blocks to be honest.

      Rubbish. Finland is an extremely active cycling nation, and a row of seven or eight bikes in various states of disrepair is VERY unusual. However, if you care to take a picture of something similar local to you, I’d be happy to publish it. Likewise, should you choose to take up the challenge, I shall post all the pictures of bike stands that I come across that have bikes in working order. Let’s see what accumulates.

      So I can’t really see much difference between those accommodations and those which i can see daily near where i live.

      That’s because you are a blockhead who has no fucking idea that the place in which someone lives is greatly influenced by the circumstances in which they live. The various lack of facilities only goes to accentuate the hopelessness and lack of real care that goes into dealing with these people whose situations are ‘undecided’. If you cannot see past your own nose on this, fine, but keep your bloody gob shut at least and respect those people who actually have to LIVE in those circumstances. Second, don’t come here shouting ‘HILARIOUS’ at the obvious suffering of other human beings. You will be labelled, quite rightly, as a callous bastard, not that we didn’t know this already from your other posts.

  6. PS voter

    The various lack of facilities

    What facilities exactly are they missing? And to me their living conditions seem to be much better than for example in the tent cities for asylum seekers in Germany or overcrowded prisons in Greece.

    And if the current level of care isn’t sufficient, should we even take more refugees, if we cannot afford to provide as good living conditions as you demand? I would like to remind that the debt level of Finland is growing rapidly and we cannot continue for long living with loaned money. And you seem to think that we should increase this kind of spending which has to be paid by taking even more loans.

  7. ohdake

    Stop your carping.

    Oh yes, if i choose to respond like you did it is carping but when you do so it is perfectly validated and acceptable behaviour…

    You didn’t refer to Joonas or validate any of his points, so why should I make some kind of psychic leap to understanding that you were agreeing with Joonas’s points?

    I didn’t mention that i had in the initial post. What i stated was that i was commenting on the images posted in the blog. Nothing beyond that.

    Rubbish. Finland is an extremely active cycling nation, and a row of seven or eight bikes in various states of disrepair is VERY unusual.

    Unusual perhaps, but not something that could not be seen anywhere else than at refugee center. State of disrepair goes back to the owners of the bikes. I truly and honestly fail to see what the sorry state of those bikes indicates beyond that people living in the apartment do not take care of them. No one else will. If i had such i would haul it to the nearest used bike seller and likely get few euros for doing so (they always need spares).

    The various lack of facilities only goes to accentuate the hopelessness and lack of real care that goes into dealing with these people whose situations are ‘undecided’.

    They seem to have the same facilities as every other Finn does in or around his apartment (assuming he/she lives in an apartment). And by the way what facilities would those additional ones be?

    If you cannot see past your own nose on this, fine, but keep your bloody gob shut at least and respect those people who actually have to LIVE in those circumstances.

    Question was about the condition of the apartments. So I’m not particularly shocked to see refugees living in similar apartments than where ‘native Finns’ do. Sure they do have heavy emotional stress both from becoming a refugee to the uncertainty of the decision but i fail to see what relevance that has to the quality of their accommodations.

  8. PS voter

    I don’t know what “majority asylum” is

    Again very funny and extremely relevant comment. You never fail to impress me.

    What is the source of your claim that most asylum seekers lack valid identification documents?

    Please don’t tell us that you heard it from some imaginary friend.

    Unlike you, I don’t have to lie as my views are based on facts instead of wishful thinking and I usually can back my claims with quotes and references (or provide other kind of evidence), although at least Mark seems to be eager to delete quotes that prove him wrong. Here is a a short quote and reference from recent press release by Finnish immigration service. I hope that you don’t delete it even though you might not like it:

    Euroopan muuttoliikeverkoston synteesiraportti:

    Suurin osa EU-alueen turvapaikanhakijoista vailla vahvistettua henkilöllisyyttä

    Turvapaikan hakeminen ilman henkilöllisyysasiakirjoja vaihteli EU-jäsenmaiden arvioissa Latvian 25 prosentista Ruotsin ja Norjan 94 prosenttiin.

    Suomi arvioi omassa raportissaan, että myönteisen päätöksen saaneista turvapaikanhakijoista noin 70 prosentilla ja kielteisen päätöksen saaneista noin 40–50 prosentilla on henkilöllisyys varmistamatta.

    • Mark

      Your reply was not deleted you lying toad. It was truncated and it was explained to you very clearly that we do not allow for cutting and pasting of large sections of Wikipedia.

    • JusticeDemon

      What you said was this:

      [most] asylum seekers don’t have valid identification documents. Many of them destroy [their] passport [on] the last leg of their journey. It causes a lot of additional effort to try to make sure that the person is really who (s)he [claims to] be.

      I understand why some war criminals try to hide their true identity, but they are small minority among all asylum seekers. I wonder why [such a] large proportion of other asylum seekers destroy their identity documents, like passport[s].

      The Interior Ministry press release and the February 2013 report refer to people who have no document to present (“joilla ei ole esittää”) that proves their identity. This depends in part on what counts as a document and what constitutes proof of identity. The topical case is Edward Snowden, whose passport was revoked before his arrival and asylum application in Russia. Snowden was formally identified (“on his own recognisance”) despite the lack of a valid identification document in the strictest sense.

      You quoted only the first half of this paragraph from the press release:

      Suomi arvioi omassa raportissaan, että myönteisen päätöksen saaneista turvapaikanhakijoista noin 70 prosentilla ja kielteisen päätöksen saaneista noin 40–50 prosentilla on henkilöllisyys varmistamatta.

      The paragraph ends as follows:

      Irak ja Somalia ovat olleet Suomelle henkilöllisyyden selvittämisen suhteen hankalimpia maita, koska näistä maista ei ole saatavissa luotettavia asiakirjoja.

      The full context does not bear out your interpretation. The main thrust of the message is evidently that such documents as may be available to and provided by asylum seekers from Somalia and Iraq are not considered reliable in Finland, which of course essentially depends on the standard of documentary reliability imposed by the Finnish authorities. One of the more peculiar features of this standard is that, for example, an expired passport or other identity card may be taken as proof of who a person was, but not as proof of that person’s current identity. This attitude reaches absurd proportions when, for instance, a 24 year-old cannot buy alcohol in Finland after presenting an expired 5-year ID card issued when the prospective customer was 18 years old.

      The paragraph from the press release does not appear in the full report. This report discusses the standards of documentation and other forms of evidence that are accepted in various Member States as proof of identity, and the available outcomes of the identification process.

      There is nothing in the press release about destroying documents, whereas the full report touches on this aspect at only three points and only in passing. The introduction to the full report refers to a practice of advising immigrants to destroy or conceal documents on arriving in Europe, but it does not discuss this practice in any detail. Presumably this advice originates with illicit carriers and document forgers who are keen to cover their own tracks.

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