Who watches over, never mind defends, the rights of asylum seekers?
In 2015 and 2016 some 38,000 asylum seekers  came to Finland and scores of asylum reception centers sprung up rapidly throughout the country to house these people. Even if the government’s answer to the ever-growing number of asylum seekers was “to make Finland unattractive for asylum seekers,” these people did a service to Finland by helping expose our ineffective and costly immigration and integration policy.
Disagree? How is it possible that it takes for some migrants 5-7 years before they can knock on the door of an employer and ask for a job?
Why is migrant unemployment many times higher than the national average?
Why do migrants get paid on average 25% less than white Finns?
It’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done to lessen the pay gap between migrants and white Finns and lower high unemployment levels.
Fabrication or the truth?
An anti-racist colleague at the recently held Golden Family Awards in Helsinki exposed an interesting problem about our reporting of asylum seekers this year.
“When I started to read [the first] stories [from January] about that abuses that asylum seekers were suffering at reception centers, the first matter that crossed my mind was if they are true because they were so unbelievable,” the person said. “How could people in our country treat others in such a terrible manner?”
For Migrant Tales, 2016 was the year of investigative journalism. We published 128 news stories on asylum reception centers, interviewed scores of asylum seekers, and got in touch with many newspapers. Our efforts helped us to get the deputy manager of the Kolari asylum reception center fired.
Asylum seekers who are minors wrote a letter to Pitäjänuutiset in the fall explaining why they are seeking asylum in Finland.
Our network of sources involves comprises of a journalist and Arab-speakers who know the asylum-seeker situation in Finland as well as the back of their hand.
In the beginning, nobody wanted to write about such abuses never mind read about the terrible stories we started to expose to the public. When Migrant Tales approached Helsingin Sanomat in January, the reporter at Finland’s largest daily gave little importance to the carefully investigated story we sent showing abuses at Luona, a private company controlled by Barona that managed back then reception centers in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, and Hyvinkää.
The reporter even admitted that she hadn’t even read the full story and compared it with complaints that the newspaper receives from pensioners at retirement homes. This, however, changed in the months ahead when Helsingin Sanomat started to publish stories about the problems at asylum reception centers.
Apparently, nobody cared too much about the situation of asylum seekers in Finland back then except for a few voices like Migrant Tales and Suomen Kuvalehti, which was the first publication in Finland that started to expose such problems through the death of a young Afghan asylum seeker, Jayyed Abbas Jafari, who died of a brain hemorrhage.
Migrant Tales wrote in January:
“He [Jayyed Abbas jafari] went for three consecutive days to ask for help from the nurse because he suffered from headaches,” a source told Migrant Tales. “Each time he was told by the nurse to take Burana and drink tea. On the fourth day he collapsed and died and was taken to the hospital.”
One matter that we still don’t know is if Jafari’s death was due to insufficient treatment or other causes like negligence on behalf of Luona. Does the private company cut corners in medical care in order to maximize profits?
Thanks to the surge in asylum seekers in 2015, Luona’s turnover soared as a result.
Luona’s profits soared by 366% in 2015. Source: Suomen Kuvalehti.
We believe that companies like Luona and other asylum reception centers that treated refugees in a degrading manner could do so with near-impunity because the government and the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) cared too little about their plight. They were more interested in fueling the xenophobic climate in Finland than protecting their basic human rights.
How is it possible that an asylum-seeker family of five are kept in a small 15-square-meter room for months on end? If I had a small apartment and it housed so many people, my children would be given custody to child protection.
Migrant Tales got in touch with an official of Rauma’s child protection unit and asked why asylum seeker families are allowed to live in such small quarters and Finnish residents would get into trouble with the authorities if they do.
The official never called back after she promised to find out about the discrepancy.
What about when a reception center crams as many asylum seekers as possible in a room without ventilation or windows?
Why haven’t we heard from the government a single word about the abuses at such reception centers that we have exposed and if the situation has improved?
The answer is simple: The government doesn’t care and wants these people to leave Finland at any cost, even if it means turning them into undocumented migrants.
In April, 107 MPs including the Social Democrats approved law 2/2016 that did away with granting residence permits on humanitarian grounds. Thanks to the law, Finland faces today an unprecedented rise of undocumented migrants that will soar from a few hundred to the thousands.
Turning a blind eye and being too lenient on allowing abuses to occur at reception centers paves the way for other abuses to take place. One of the most important of these is if taxpayers’ money has been spent effectively and that people are treated with the same dignity that we demand as well.
In our first story on asylum centers, we asked why the media, the government, and reception centers are so quiet about the people they are giving shelter and food.
The answer to that question is, we believe, in government self-praise that is not only deceptive but covers-up a politically embarrassing situation. The government didn’t do a good job in taking care of these asylum seekers if in many of such centers. On the contrary, it did a poor and expensive job with little regulation.
There was little regulation because there was little political will to do so from the government, which insinuated that these people were guilty of being economic migrants.
For the government, searching for a better life and fleeing violence weren’t valid reasons for coming to Finland.
Considering that Migrant Tales’ limited sources were able to expose alleged negligence and abuse at some reception centers, we are still surprised why the government and other players like the Luona and the Red Cross do so little.
Considering that the government allocated close to a billion euros to house and take care of these asylum seekers in 2016, why was there so little interest about the treatment of asylum seekers? Was it a government cover-up? Was it sending a message to other would-be asylum seekers not to come to Finland because if you do you’re going to have to live in asylum reception centers where people are treated “like livestock” or forced to reside in “a living hell?“
If the government has budgeted such a hefty sum of money, why does it take months for the Migri to decide on their asylum applications? Is it because it is a systematic plan to discourage people from coming to Finland and to encourage asylum seekers here to leave the country?
We believe so since the logic to turn down over 80% of asylum requests has nothing to do with reality in Iraq, Afghanistan or in Somalia. Existing policy is guided by politics and the Perussuomalaiset , a xenophobic party that forms part of Prime Minister Sipilä’s government.
If we want to see the worst examples of Finnish racism and discrimination, asylum centers would be the place to find such shameful and unacceptable behavior.
The fact that some reception centers treat asylum seekers in such a racist and abusive manner reveals that they are out of touch with our values and laws and able to carry on as before thanks to our denial and loathing of such people.
Wake up Finland
The abuses that many asylum seekers continue to suffer in Finland are many. They are not fabricated stories or a figment of our imagination. They are real and expose our official and public denial of the social ills that lurk in our society like racism and bigotry.
As long as politicians, the media, and the public continue to deny the gravity of such a problem, the situation will only get worse.
We hope that our coverage of asylum reception centers and their residents in 2016 will help to foster a better understanding of the problem and to find proactive solutions.
We are not holding our breaths, however. We are pessimistic that the present government headed by Prime Minister Sipilä can improve the situation of asylum seekers never mind that of migrants and minorities living in this country because they have shown over and over again their disdain for us.
Ville Ranta is a cartoonist that has exposed the cold-hearted hypocrisy of the government. Here’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, officials of the Finnish Immigration Service and Finnish Security Intelligence Police telling an asylum seeker to stop splashing blood on them.
Stories published by Migrant Tales on asylum reception centers during 2016
- Does Finland treat asylum seekers with human dignity or as livestock? (January 22, 2016)
- Was the death of an Afghani asylum seeker at Luona’s reception center due to negligence? (January 28, 2016)
- Does Luona treat asylum seekers with dignity or as livestock? (January 29, 2016)
- BOX STORY: Mohammed Saleh Muhsin (January 29, 2016)
- How the Finnish Immigration Service’s fast-track scheme will deport thousands of asylum seekers from Finland in 2016 (February 13, 2016)
- Why are so many Iraqi asylum seekers abandoning Finland? (February 13, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker: The first Finnish word I learned was “vittu” (February 14, 2016)
- Luona claims that it has zero tolerance for racism but can you teach a racist dog new tricks? (February 19, 2016)
- Asylum seekers have exposed Europe’s schizophrenia and bigotry (February 21, 2016)
- Our image of Finland to asylum seekers is too rosy and full of myths that expose ethnocentrism and hypocrisy (February 24, 2016)
- How “safe and reliable” is the Finnish police towards asylum seekers? (February 24, 2016)
- Close to 80% of the police service of Finland sees asylum seekers as the greatest threat to security (March 7, 2016)
- Abuse of asylum seekers at Luona’s reception centers continues despite assurances that they don’t permit “racist behavior” (March 9, 2016)
- Abuses at Luona’s asylum reception centers continue – two refugees tried to commit suicide (March 12, 2016)
- Two new suicide cases involving asylum seekers in Finland not reported by the media (March 15, 2015)
- Recovering Afghan who attempted suicide wants to leave Finland (March 16, 2016)
- How many former asylum seekers from Luona got jobs thanks to a fast-track employment scheme? (March 19, 2016)
- An asylum seeker at Villa Meri reception center is on hunger strike protesting poor treatment by the staff (March 22, 2016)
- More problems and issues at the Villa Meri asylum reception center of Rauma, Finland (March 24, 2016)
- Is Barona’s fast-track employment scheme “a joke?” (March 24, 2016)
- A formal complaint by five asylum seeker at Luona’s reception center sheds light on alleged “gross abuses” (March 25, 2016)
- CORRECTED: 45-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker allegedly attempted to take his life in Pieksämäki (April 1, 2016)
- Pieksämäki reception center fire shows that the Finnish media and police service consider asylum seekers “guilty before proven innocent” (April 2, 2016)
- More alleged abuses of asylum seekers by Barona security guards (April 4, 2016)
- The story of the migrant with the fake Rolex who charges real prices for finding an apartment (April 8, 2016)
- On top of Luona’s poor reputation, the Finnish company is alleged to use informers to spy on asylum seekers (April 17, 2016)
- Security guards at Luona’s Pitäjänmäki reception center continue to treat asylum seekers with disrespect (April 26, 2016)
- The Kolari, Finland, asylum reception center “is a living hell” (May 1, 2016)
- Kolari, Finland, asylum reception center: It costs to “live in hell” (May 2, 2016)
- Pictures from the Kolari asylum reception center in Finland (May 4, 2016)
- About 120 asylum seekers from the Kolari reception center in Finland protested against bad treatment (May 4, 2016)
- What’s going on at the Kolari, Finland, asylum reception center? (May 5, 2016)
- Kirje Suomalaisille Kolarin vastaanottokeskuksesta – A letter to Finns from the Kolari asylum reception center (May 7, 2016)
- Humane treatment of asylum seekers – case Kolari reception center (May 9, 2016)
- Rebuttal to Helsingin Sanomat concerning the Kolari asylum reception center story (May 11, 2016)
- YLE: Red Cross sacks Kolari asylum reception center deputy manager (May 13, 2016)
- What former Kolari asylum reception center deputy manager “likes” on Facebook (and it’s not pretty) (May 15, 2016)
- Kolari asylum seeker: Matters haven’t improved at all at the reception center (May 17, 2016)
- Is the Kolari asylum reception center a copy of PS immigration and regional policy that is unconstitutional? (May 20, 2016)
- Police allegedly threatened asylum seeker with deportation if “he didn’t behave” and stop protesting (May 24, 2016)
- Kolari asylum seekers “very happy” about the closure of the reception center (May 30, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seekers in Helsinki and the Kemi reception center will take part in peaceful protest Wednesday (May 31, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seekers to demonstrate in Helsinki and Kemi Wednesday at 1pm (May 31, 2016)
- Helsinki and Kemi demonstrations by Iraqi asylum seekers considered “successful” by their organizers (June 1, 2016)
- Two pictures and a video of Wednesday’s peaceful demonstration in Helsinki by Iraqi asylum seekers (June 1, 2016)
- Kolari reception center asylum seeker: Matters have improved because the new manager is very supportive (June 3, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike day 1: “Iraq wasn’t and still isn’t safe” (June 5, 2016)
- Irakilaisen syömälakko päivä yksi: “Irak ei ollut silloin eikä tänäänkään turvallista” (June 5, 2016)
- Ana María Gutiérrez Soranen: Vauvan äitiä ja kolmevuotiasta Sämää ei saa käännyttää Suomesta (June 6, 2016)
- Zimema Mhone: Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike day 2 (June 6, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike: Namir al-Azawin taken to intensive care (June 8, 2016)
- UPDATE: Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike day 4 (June 8, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike: Video of Namir al-Azzawi (June 8, 2016)
- Petteri Orpo’s election as the new NCP chairman is a vote in favor of ever-tightening immigration policy and hostility against asylum seekers (June 11, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike: Namir al-Azzawi taken to hospital for second time (June 12, 2016)
- Namir al-Azzawi ends hunger strike after nine days (June 13, 2016)
- Thulfiqar Abdulkareem Abdulameer: My story (June 15, 2016)
- Finland tightens family reunification laws and denies migrants the right to a family (June 18, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike: Before and after (June 19, 2016)
- Oikeus elää – A Right to live الحق للعيش demonstration tomorrow at 4:00 pm in Helsinki (Narikkantori, Kamppi) (June 19, 2016)
- Live coverage of Oikeus elää – A Right to live الحق للعيش demonstration (June 20, 2016)
- The Finnish media doesn’t care to write about asylum seekers when they try to take control of their narrative (June 20, 2016)
- How “safe” is Iraq? Who is safe in Iraq? (July 4, 2016)
- Beri Jamal: My Thoughts (July 11, 2016)
- Skärpt asylpolitik – Hur behandlas asylansökningarna? (July 13, 2016)
- Vi håller oss vid liv, men hålls vi som människor? (July 13, 2016)
- Terrorism och våld (July 22, 2016)
- Finland’s shameful asylum policy should be changed (July 31, 2016)
- Asylum seekers’ rights in Finland to appeal will be severely undermined thanks to a new law that will come into force on September 1 (August 12, 2016)
- Asylum seekers in Finland: New law that will shorten the time of appeal is a “cowardly” act (August 13, 2016)
- Finnish interior ministry report: violence against migrants hasn’t grown significantly in 2015 (August 16, 2016)
- Forssa, Finland: A hotbed of racist behavior where words turn into bullets (August 26, 2016)
- Our new message to the world: Finland doesn’t like you so don’t even think of moving here! (September 2, 2016)
- Mohammed Khulbus Idnan’s perilous journey from Finland back to a “safe” country like Iraq (September 3, 2016)
- The refugee business in Finland is booming (September 4, 2016)
- Helsingin Sanomat article on the Finnish Immigration Service sheds light on an institution distanced from human rights and Nordic values (September 5, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker Majid*: The Finnish Immigration Service made me lose all hope, that’s why I wanted to take my life (September 5, 2016)
- Suomen Kuvalehti: The Finnish government’s hardline immigration stance is not the standard in other European countries (September 8, 2016)
- Single mother Iraqi asylum seeker with two children plead for help to not be deported from Finland (September 15, 2016)
- UPDATED: Iraqi asylum seeker takes his life after getting a negative decision from the Finnish Immigration Service (September 19, 2016)
- Zaker: A refugees journey from Afghanistan to Europe (September 19, 2016)
- Police now investigate the death of a young Iraqi asylum seeker in Finland (September 21, 2016)
- Stop this Game! demonstration exposes the disingenuousness of Juha Sipilä’s government (September 24, 2016)
- Where should we go after Saturday’s Stop this Game! demonstration? (September 25, 2016)
- ¡No pasarán! (September 26, 2016)
- The number of undocumented migrants in Finland will soar “by the thousands” (September 26, 2016)
- An Iraqi asylum seeker gets shot at twice in Kemi on Friday, police apprehend suspect (October 2, 2016)
- UPDATE: Iraqi asylum seeker files charges against suspect who shot at him (October 3, 2016)
- Three men assaulted near Mikkeli three Iraqi asylum seekers with an axe and small shovel (October 3, 2016)
- The Iraqi community of Kemi doesn’t feel secure after Friday’s shooting (October 3, 2016)
- The government of Juha Sipilä has failed with flying colors on its strategy to contain the rise of racism in Finland (October 4, 2016)
- Two stories, two versions about an incident involving asylum seekers in Finland (October 5, 2016)
- Finland’s asylum reception centers are like a game of Russian roulette without bullets (October 5, 2016)
- Is there a breakdown of trust between the manager of the Keuruu reception center and asylum seekers? (October 13, 2016)
- The manager of the Keuruu asylum reception center prohibits religious and cultural celebrations – is this the Finnish way of welcoming newcomers? (October 15, 2016)
- Migrant Tales’ hindsight column: Two stories that are supposed to wither away (October 22, 2016)
- Pitajänuutiset: “Etstimme turvaa Suomesta” (October 22, 2016)
- Family reunification in Finland can easily cost a migrant thousands of euros (October 23, 2016)
- UPDATE: Problems at Rauma’s Villa Meri asylum reception persist and have gotten worse (October 27, 2016)
- UPDATE: How can a rape of an adolescent visitor happen at the Villa Meri asylum reception center? (October 28, 2016)
- Case Villa Meri: Is the job of an asylum reception center to promote the well-being or suffering of those they serve? (October 29, 2016)
- The Finnish Immigration Service, with the blessings of the government, aims to separate migrant parents from their children (October 30, 2016)
- Two Iraqi asylum seekers who returned to “safe” Iraq and were killed (October 31, 2016)
- A naturalized Finn who returned to a “safe” country like Afghanistan and was killed last month (October 31, 2016)
- Is Somalia a “safe” country and do asylum seekers want to die in vain? (November 5, 2016)
- Police University College of Finland: Hate crimes rise by 52.01% in 2015 (November 11, 2016)
- Ahmed Kahdim Ali Alsultani is a former Iraqi asylum seeker with a death certificate (November 15, 2016)
- Luona, Kolari, Villa Meri, Keuruu, Laajakoski asylum reception centers in Finland that are shameful examples (November 19, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker in Finland: A journey that began in a tormented land (November 20, 2016)
- Finland faces a challenge with the rise of undocumented immigrants (November 20, 2016)
- Iraqi asylum seeker gets asylum application turned down as his family members are attacked by the militia (November 20, 2016)
- How a well-managed asylum reception center should be run (November 22, 2016)
- The disgraceful stand of the government towards undocumented migrants in Finland (November 24, 2016)
- A sick Iraqi asylum seeker asks for mercy in a country that supposed to offer it (November 30, 2016)
- Över 850 Irakiska asylsökande demonstrerar emot Immigratioinsverket omännskliga beslut (December 4, 2016)
- UPDATE: Minor asylum seeker at the Villa Meri reception center sent to hospital after getting pepper-sprayed by security guard (December 5, 2016)
- Police superintendent of Finland: No need for repatriation agreement with Iraq, we can deport asylum seekers if we wish (December 5, 2016)
- Why migrants and minorities in Finland continue to suffer from discrimination and social inequality (December 6, 2016)
- Milisier som bränner ner barnens väskor för att de delats ut av en infidel (December 9, 2016)
- Asylum seekers: The situation at the Laajakoski reception center is “absolutely catastrophic” (December 10, 2016)
- The Finnish Red Cross must take action to correct the alleged abuses at the Laajakoski asylum reception center near Kotka (December 11, 2016)
- Finland, asylum seekers and the media: Moral cowardice and passing the buck (December 15, 2016)
- Finland’s ever-growing crisis of undocumented migrants is the government’s and Social Democratic Party’s doing (December 18, 2016)
- Finland’s about-turn in immigration and asylum policy reveal populism and suspicion (December 19, 2016)
- Repatriation agreement between Iraqi Ministry of Migration & Displaced and Finland comes to naught (December 23, 2016)
- Remember when PM Juha Sipilä offered his home in Finland to asylum seekers? (December 23, 2016)
- Is Christmas a time of joy and hatred towards Muslims? (December 23, 2016)
- A letter of apology for the disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers in Finland by the government (December 24, 2016)
* “The Supermen” are a group of concerned citizens who helped to expose the abuses and racism at some of Finland’s reception centers. Some of them want to be anonymous because it would impede their priceless work in exposing future injustices and abuses of asylum seekers, migrants and minorities.
 In 2015, 32,476 asylum seekers came to Finland and in 2016, or to December 25, it was 5,589 asylum seekers, which is an 82.8% drop from the previous year, according to the Finnish Immigration Service.
 The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”