When asked about how the government reacted to the 32,476 asylum seekers that came to Finland in 2015, the answer is simple: The government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä states that they did a good job in finding shelter for such people. Well, sort of…
Even if many asylum centers, their management, and staff did a good job, it’s clear that many didn’t.
One reason why the government isn’t too excited about talking about those asylum reception centers that have operated poorly is because it would be a political embarrassment. Close to a billion euros have been spent on taking care of asylum seekers. Has the government got what it paid for?
What a bad investment,no? First, you invest hundreds of millions of euros and then you proceed to kick two-thirds of them knowing that our population is aging and that we need labor. But hey, they’re Muslims, right?
Throughout the year, Migrant Tales has exposed a number of reception centers that have done a poor job in serving and helping asylum seekers.
After we started reporting more of these cases from January, the Finnish media started to get interested as well.
But before that, the national media wasn’t very keen at all. When we approached Helsingin Sanomat in January, a reporter turned down our findings because they were similar to what pensioners suffer at rest homes.
Little by little, Helsingin Sanomat started to report more about the abuses that asylum seekers suffered at some reception centers, particularly those run by a private company called Luona.
Some of the complaints from asylum seekers made about reception centers were that they were treated “like livestock” and that it costs money to live in what an asylum seeker called a reception center “hell.” One Iraqi in Helsinki said that the first word he learned in Finnish was vittu, or f**k, because the Luona staff commonly used such a word to address the asylum seekers.
There are many more shameful examples of abuse and unprofessional treatment that have gone unreported in Finland. Even so, we have exposed a number of cases: asylum reception centers run by Luona, which has reception centers in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Hyvinkää; a reception center in Kolari run by the Red Cross where asylum seekers were charged 0.50 euros for a tomato, among other serious issues; Villa Meri (private company Mehiläinen); and Keuruu (Red Cross), where people are not allowed to celebrate religious and cultural holidays.
In our attempt to give asylum seekers a voice, some of our efforts have paid off. One such case was the Kolari asylum reception center where the deputy manager was sacked in May.
Reports of abuses and poor management continue to reach us. The latest one comes from the Laajakoski asylum reception center near Kotka, where the management, among other complaints, allegedly tells asylum seekers to go back to their country if they don’t like it here.
The Laajakoski reception center is located near Kotka in southeastern Finland. It started operating in January. Read the full story (in Finnish) here.
Migrant Tales has a recording of a manager of the Laajakoski reception center telling an asylum seeker who is crippled to go back to his country because the manager doesn’t want to give him a pillow and blanket.
This type of behavior from the management is, in our opinion, unacceptable and a stain on all reception center in Finland that try to do the best job possible by respecting the laws and human dignity.
We have in our possession the recording of the incident where the manager told the crippled asylum seeker to go back to his country, which is in our opinion a clear case of bullying and lack of accountability by the Red Cross. It’s not the first time that the manager allegedly threatens the asylum seekers in this fashion.
Here’s part of the conversation:
Lajakoski reception manager (LRM): “You have this much stuff [that you brought from the other center] and they give you nothing? When you come here. I saw all your luggage.
Asylum seeker (AS): Yes, it is mine [the luggage].
AS: Check it out.
LRM: And they [the other camp] give you nothing? And you get nothing from Finland? Make it special that you go back home!”
The dialogue above is an example of a manager who “has lost it.” The manager’s behavior and response to the crippled asylum seeker reveals that the person isn’t up for the job because the manager bullies, teases and threatens the asylum seeker.
Some asylum seekers at the Laajakoski reception center claim that the treatment of the management is synonymous to constant “psychological torment.”
An asylum seeker at the camp sent a long list of complaints to the Red Cross about the treatment of asylum seekers at the camp. “I’m begging you,” the complaint reads. “People in here are suffering and you have to do something about it.”
Migrant Tales will publish a more comprehensive story about the Laajakoski reception center soon.
So how should a good reception center be run in Finland?
I spoke with some people who work at reception centers and who have a lot of experience in this line of work. They said the following was important if you wanted to run a well-managed reception center:
- Management is key and has to be accessible to the resident asylum seekers;
- The manager should be sincere and not make promises he or she cannot keep;
- Good management means that the person is interested in the well-being of the people he or she is serving;
- A culturally and ethnically diverse staff that is qualified to work with asylum seekers;
- Treat those people who you are serving with respect;
- Racist and/or ethnocentric behavior poisons the atmosphere of the camp rapidly. Trust is undermined.