It’s a Sunday and we’re at a fast-food Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Helsinki. I have an appointment with a twenty-six-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker who came to Finland in September via Tornio and who is staying at one of Luona’s asylum reception centers. Like many who have the misfortune of staying at a reception center run by Luona, he too isn’t happy about the poor and humiliating treatment he’s getting.
Apart from traumas left by the violence in his country and the long journey to Finland, which hinges on a residence permit, the treatment he gets at Luona’s reception center only exacerbates his ordeal.
“I made a big mistake coming to Finland and I’m disappointed and feel mentally sick by the situation,” said the Iraqi asylum seeker. Photo by Enrique Tessieri.
“We are treated in a racist manner and like animals by Luona. In the first reception center I stayed at (managed by Luona) we were 10-12 asylum seekers in each room. We slept on the floor. People were forced to wear dirty clothes because there was only one washing machine for the whole center. The food that is served is horrible. It isn’t eatable and we don’t trust it. Even if the employees ensure us there’s no pork we can’t trust what they say. [Luona has accidentally served pork twice to asylum seekers].
The employees are racist and we don’t trust them. They [most] don’t speak Arabic and they treat us in a humilitating manner with disrespect.  They don’t even know our rights! They’ll call as well the police for any minor reason. A good example is what happened toMohammed Saleh Muhsin, who was locked up for 15 hours at a police cell for asking why his allowance was late. They also use the word vittu [fuck] all the time when they are with us. Vittu is the first word I learned in Finnish.
The staff also steals clothes that was donated by people for us. The employees at Luona take the best clothes for themselves and leaves us those that are torn and which they don’t want. We have to buy everything ourselves with our 92-euro monthly allowance.
The police are very racist in Finland. Before New Year’s day I saw a group of Finns beating an asylum seeker in front of a building [Lasinpalatsi]. The police, who were a short distance away, didn’t do anything to stop what was happening.
The Finnish employees at Luona aren’t the only ones who treat us badly. There are Kurdish employees and security guards who treat Iraqis with contempt. The way it words is simple: Somali workers help the Somalis, the Kurds their own people and so forth.
I admit making a big mistake coming to Finland and I’m disappointed at myself for this. I feel mentally sick by the situation. Coming here was a big mistake. I’m constantly made to feel like trash and as a person who has no worth. If I ever returned back to Baghdad I’d tell others not to come Finland because they treat asylum seekers really badly.
But what can I do except accept the situation? I can’t go back home because there’s a war so I have no choice but to bear the situation, even if it’s very hard.
The death of the Afghani [Jayyed Abbas Jaffari] at Luona’s reception center in early January in Espoo raised a lot of concern among asylum seekers. It’s important that his death is cleared up. We’re not animals but humans.
If I had a chance to tell something to the Finns I’d tell them that we came here because you’re a country that respects human rights. I came here expecting to be treated like a brother but that hasn’t happened. Don’t treat us like animals. I was forced to come here because my country is at war.
I know that there are many good people in Finland and that being at the reception center is the total opposite of what Finland is like.
I cannot go back to Iraq. I don’t want to stay in Finland but I have no choice but to remain.
* Mostafa is a fictitious name.
 Some sources claim that the Arabic-speaking staff makes fun of the asylum seeker. They give wrong information and cuss at them.