There’s been a lot of news as of late from the small town of Kolari, where the location of Finland’s northernmost asylum center is. If I were forced to live there, I would probably go crazy too.
Kolari is far away from everywhere. Source: Google Maps.
Some 120 asylum seekers at the camp staged a peaceful demonstration Wednesday. One of the demands of the asylum seekers is to close the camp.
“We had talks with the management broke down today about closing this camp,” an asylum seeker told Migrant Tales by phone. “If there isn’t a resolution about this by Monday we are all going to leave the building and sleep outside.”
The asylum seeker said that the majority of the people at the camp have been on hunger strike from Wednesday.
Certainly a valid question is why on earth would the Finnish state want to establish an asylum center in such a far-flung town where even the postal code – 95900 – sounds remote.
The town has only one main street, Jokinjantie, and the closest “cities” by Lapland standards are Rovaniemi and Tornio, located 166km and 186km away, respectively. Anyone who has visited Rovaniemi (pop. 58,100 inhabitants) will probably agree that it has a wild deep northern feel to it.
But let’s go back to the question: Why of all places an asylum center in Kolari?
For one, the Finnish state is required to spread these centers equally throughout the country.
But what do you do if you come from a vast metropolis like Baghdad with 3.8 million inhabitants and end up in Kolari with only 3,857 residents? There are two options: rub salt on your wounds or think about leaving Finland.
Considering that we have the anti-immigration populist Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party in government, Kolari might serve as a warning to other asylum seekers who may wander to Finland.
Considering that about 32,500 asylum seekers came to Finland last year, there were a lot of mistakes made when establishing these centers throughout the country. We’ve read a lot about abuses at Luona, the private company that manages asylum centers in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Hyvinkää, Villa Meri in Rauma, and now about the problems in Kolari.
Some of them, like the one in Niinisalo, never opened their doors to asylum seekers since they were razed to the ground.
The name of this infamous prison used in Wednesday’s demonstration has its roots in a Vantaa asylum reception center. A staffer there had threatened an asylum seeker that he’d be transferred to the Kolari reception center which is like Guantanamo.