Iraqi asylum seeker in Finland: A journey that began in a tormented land

by , under Iraqi asylum seeker, Migrant Tales

Migrant Tales is very happy to receive mail from readers. Below is a story about an Iraqi asylum seeker that lives in Finland. These types of stories are important because they offer a human face to asylum seekers and their lives. 

Here is an Iraqi asylum seeker’s story that began in a tormented land: 

When Iraq collapsed after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, I was a boy of nine living in the city of Babil, which is located in central Iraq. When the US invaded my country, people were happy with Hussein’s downfall. They thought the US will bring freedom and democracy to our country. Unfortunately, it was only a dream…


The author is a young man like many who came to Finland in 2015.

At the age of nine, I was only a child with a simple dream to become an elementary school teacher. I loved to play basketball and I used to practice a lot at the local sports club. I felt that when the US took over my country, all my dreams would come true one day. I thought that I’d play on the Iraqi national basketball team and represent my country at international competitions. I thought that Iraq will be a safe country to live in with freedom. Unfortunately, all I have witnessed is death and killings every day and everywhere.

One day as a kid I saw a bombed car close to the yard where I used to play.  That image is still stuck in my mind. There is blood everywhere, and death.

Everyone thinks that Iraq got freedom and democracy after the US invasion but the truth is that death is everywhere every day. When I turned 18, I was caught in a big explosion that left four of my friends dead. I survived but was injured.

After that incident, I got a chance to study at the university. All of this time, I saw how Iraq continued to destroy itself piece by piece and how corruption grew everywhere. The only way you’ll get anything done is usually with the help of bribery.


The original story was written in Arabic.

Like many young people of any country, I have a dream to live in a peaceful country. I am determined to fight for that freedom by demonstrating against the government and against the militias, their threats and armed groups that intimidated, jailed and tortured me and which attacked my family members like my father and mother. I want to demonstrate against the militias that specifically threatened to kill my brother if he didn’t reveal where I fled and escaped after I left my home in Baghdad. 

Even after that, I it was difficult to live in Iraq because the police were helping the militias to look for me. I then decided to leave my country and moved to Turkey for two months. I met a lot of Arabs there and they started to ask me why don’t I think about going to Europe. They said it would be safer for me to move to Europe since I was an enemy of the government. In Europe, I’d find a safe and peaceful place to live and at the same time try to attain those dreams I so longed for in Iraq. After settling down in Europe, I could start a campaign against the Iraqi government.

I made up a plan on how to leave Turkey and migrate to Europe. My journey began on the so-called Death Road (Greece to Germany) after I crossed the sea that separates Asia from Europe. I tried three times and came close to drowning but the last attempt, God made a miracle possible and I made it to the shores of Greece, where my eyes revealed the sad scenes of suffering and pain I saw in each child’s eyes, who were there without any help and food.

We then made it to Hungary and for three days, without eating our thoughts were on Europe, a region that prizes itself for its human rights and humanity. There was the Red Cross but it did nothing at all to alleviate our suffering. After days, we made it to Germany and it’s there where we were surprized and had to sleep the following day in prison without food and with 1,000 other Arab refugees from different countries. I kept saying to myself if this is the Europe I had heard so much about that upholds human rights?  After so much discrimination and violence that I faced in Germany by its people, I decided to head for Sweden, where I didn’t stay for a long time since the asylum process there is the same as in Germany. I was told that Finland is a country that respects human rights and equality without any discrimination or racism at all.

I have lived in Finland for one year and two months and every day I face a lot of racism here. Every time I talk to people here they keep telling me that they hate refugees a lot and every day I kept facing the same thing at the asylum reception center as well. For example, if you got sick and need help you’d have to wait a month to get an appointment with a doctor. I am sure that if there were more people that would help us from their hearts, without any discrimination, things would be better for us. We are all human beings, nothing more.

The reception center I lived in before belonged to a church and it was nice. I got help and support there but it was closed down [by the Finnish Immigration Service] in April of this year. I met a girl there and decided to live with my friend [girl]. She’s been very kind and looked forward to helping and assisting me. She always said that there wouldn’t be any racism or hatred if everyone in Finland helped one refugee. Later on, I met the woman’s family members and they were all really very nice and respectful. The family comprises of a mother, three girls, and four boys. They all helped and treated me as if I were a member of their family. When I leave her home, however, and go to the city, I still see how much people look at me with hatred and in a very bad way. Against that backdrop, I do believe that there are a lot of people in Finland that are willing and want to help and support me and other refugees, too.

The whole asylum process is very difficult. Applications take a long time to process and this brings a lot of uncertainty and anxiety because we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. There are a lot of young asylum seekers who are well educated and willing to develop and help contribute to the country and support the Finnish government in the same way like refugees in Germany and the US do.

I hope that everyone could see asylum seekers in a positive light. I hope that people could understand our suffering due to wars and armed conflicts. I want to thank all those who did help, assist and supported refugees at the refugee camps.

I would like to make a complaint on behalf of two people who were in need of medical attention at the reception center they were staying. I am one of these persons. I needed medication for an ailment since the pain I suffer is severe. Even after a number of visits to the nurse at the camp, and after looking at different types of medication on the Internet to alleviate the pain, I wasn’t able to get any help or advice from the camp’s health staff.  Nobody appears to be responsible for anything and this is one aspect of the bad treatment we get from people who work at asylum reception centers.