Laajakoski asylum reception center gives refugees the “opportunity” to learn Finnish for 250 euros a month

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The management of the Red Cross-run Laajakoski asylum reception center located near the Finnish southeast city of Kotka is reported to have given the green light for the 250-odd refugees at the center to take Finnish-language courses for 250 euros a month. 

Yes, you read correctly, 250 euros! Even if this includes room and board for six hours of Finnish-language courses daily from Monday to Friday, it would imply living off 66 euros on weekends since an asylum seekers’ monthly allowance at Laajakoski is 316 euros/month.

If there are eight days in four weekends each month, an asylum seeker would have to get by on 8.25 euros/day.

Migrant Tales understands that not too many asylum seekers at the reception center were interested in the proposal. Why would you want to study on an island in Hamina or some remote place between Hamina and Kotka if the majority are going to get their asylum applications turned down by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri)?

Moreover, courses for asylum seekers are being arranged in other cities at no cost to the person. Why is Laajakoski an exception?

Is this a bad joke or rubbing salt into these asylum seekers’ wounds by the manager, Saija Makkonen, and deputy manager, Tiina Mesola?

We believe that the proposal by the Laajakoski center management is another example of their poor management and that they care little for many of the people they are supposed to look after.

The complaints we published in a story below in  December are ample proof of the latter:

  • Medical attention is poor. There are only two nurses that are available for one hour from 9-10 Monday to Friday.
  • The nurse doesn’t sometimes come at 9 but 15-30 minutes late because she may be at a meeting. There are long lines to see the nurse. In an hour it’s impossible for the nurse to attend everyone;
  • Getting an appointment with a doctor is very difficult. The nurse has allegedly told the asylum seekers that they cannot see a doctor because they don’t have any funds;
  • One asylum seeker was playing football and he broke his hand. He went to the nurse, who told him that he didn’t need to go to a doctor. It took the asylum seeker ten days to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with a broken hand;
  • The asylum seeker who broke his hand was sent to the hospital alone without an interpreter or any help. The person is illiterate and doesn’t speak English;
  • When a fellow asylum seeker at the camp interpreted for him over the phone when he went to the hospital, he got scolded by the nurse who told him that he had no business helping him;
  • Asylum seekers miss doctor and dentist appointments because they are just sent by themselves with a map and directions in English, which they may not speak;
  • If an asylum seeker feels sick, they are usually told by the nurse “to relax” and given a painkiller like Burana;
  • Many asylum seekers believe that the nurses would care less for their welfare;
  • A sick woman in her mid-40s suffering from cirrhosis of the liver was told by the camp nurse to go back to her country because she’s going to die anyway;
  • Apparently, to save money, an old lady’s religion was mocked at when the camp deputy manager told her that she doesn’t need to go to hospital but should to a mosque instead;
  • The crippled asylum seeker with a prosthetic leg, who asked for a pillow and blanket and was told to go back to his country, had to walk back to the camp 9kms away in cold weather because the deputy manager doesn’t approve any rides to residents unless approved by her;
  • Even if in Finland a person has the freedom to roam in the forest (jokamiehenoikeus), the asylum seekers of the camp were expressly prohibited to fish even if they had purchased fishing licenses;
  • The staff had carried out a false fire alarm so they can search the asylum seekers’ rooms;
  •  The management dictates cleaning shifts and asylum seekers don’t have this right;
  • The manager and deputy manager make the rules. When the residents ask the deputy manager why such rules are made she responds that it’s because of the manager and vice-versa;
  • A year has passed and the head of the camp, Saija Makkonen, is rarely if ever seen at the center talking to asylum seekers;
  • The staff freely speak about the asylum seekers’ personal matters like relationships;
  • The management treats asylum seekers unfairly. Those that speak Turkish are treated better than those that speak Arabic. The deputy manager is of Turkish origin;
  • The staff isn’t helpful at all and do basically what the manager orders them. A minority are helpful;
  • Since the camp was opened in January, there have never held a weekly or monthly meeting between staff/management and asylum seekers;
  • When an asylum seeker gets a negative decision from Migri, Tiina tells the person she like (because the person speaks Turkish) that it’s so sad you got such a decision. For others, like Iraqis, she has told them that you deserve such a decision;
  •  Some Iraqi asylum seekers have preferred to return back to their country because of the poor treatment they receive from the management;
  • Locals have brought clothes and toys for children but the deputy manager turned down these presents because she said nobody deserves them at the camp.