Kemi is a good example of Finland’s hostile environment against asylum seekers and migrants

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The small 50-70 strong Iraqi community of the northern Finnish city of Kemi (pop. 21,256 in 2017) is feeling the brunt of the Islamophobic reaction of the highly publicized sexual assault cases of Oulu, located just 106 km from the city. 

Even before the sexual assault cases became public at the end of last year, the situation of the small Iraqi community of Kemi was problematic.

One Iraqi resident of Kemi alleged in 2017 that the Red Cross advised Muslim asylum seekers not leave their homes after eight pm on Saturdays because it was too dangerous.

Apart from the hostile environment against asylum seekers and presence of far-right vigilante groups like the Soldiers of Odin, one asylum seeker was shot at in 2016 and another one had his middle finger broken by a member of the vigilante group.

And let’s not forget Islamophobic Kemi city counsellors like Harri Tauriainen of the Perussuomalaiset* party.

“Matters are now worse [in Kemi] than before because of what happened in Oulu,” said a former asylum seeker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kemi is a city located 106 km from Oulu and 711 km north from Helsinki. Source: MTV.

According to the Kemi resident,  Iraqis fear going out of their homes at night. One asylum seeker who went to Lidl, called the source at 8.30 pm because he feared walking back home at night.

If Iraqis go out of their homes they usually do it in pairs of two or more.

“One consequence of Oulu is that nobody wants to rent apartments in Kemi to Iraqis,” the source continued, who said that a realtor had told him frankly that it was useless renting a home because the person was from the Middle East.

The source said that even the Finnish teachers blame them for the bad anti-immigration atmosphere.

“They say that Finnish people don’t like us because we depend on social welfare and don’t work,” the source said. “But is it our fault? We have three years to learn the language and three years to get a profession.”

Such Finnish-language teachers allegedly blame the Iraqis of racism.

“You are also racist towards Somalis the teacher told us,” the source said, who added that there are bad and sick people in all groups. “It is incredible what a big deal Finns make of what happened in Oulu and place the blame on us, who are innocent. Certainly, there are good people in Finland who want to help us.”

The source, who only has one Finnish friend in Kemi said that they are planning to move from Kemi because life is so hard them there.

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The far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017, into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity never mind Muslims and other visible minorities. One is more open about it while the other says it in a different way.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.