UPDATE: Problems at Rauma’s Villa Meri asylum reception persist and have gotten worse

by , under Enrique Tessieri, Martin Al-Laji

In March, Migrant Tales reported about the problems at the Villa Meri asylum reception of Rauma, a western Finnish city located 91 kilometers north of Turku. Some of these problems, which were cited back then, persist and have gotten worse. 

Some of the problems cited at the reception center about eight months ago were threats to deport asylum seekers to Iraq, bullying, no contact with the manager Päivi Nikkola, bad food, no places for children to play, no access to a doctor, among other complaints.

Apparently, matters have gotten so bad at the reception center that the manager doesn’t communicate any longer with the residents.

UPDATE: What do asylum reception centers do to avoid rape and other bodily harm to people?

1) visitors are watched by the staff; (2) corridors are watched by camera; (3) empty rooms are locked (the rape that took place at the reception center was allegedly in an empty room); (4) there are areas of the camp that are off limits to visitors and asylum seekers.


Previous stories published by Migrant Tales in March.

The residents of the asylum reception center, which are all families and today number 70-80 persons, sent in spring a complaint to the parliamentary ombudsman.

While the complaint and hunger strike were made about eight months ago, the problems at the center persist and have gotten worse. A rape occurred at the reception center. If the asylum seekers are to be believed, the rape could have been prevented if there was better communication with the staff and manager.

The Villa Meri asylum reception center is a private company run by Hoivapalvelu Metsälahti, a subsidiary owned by Mehiläinen.

After speaking with an asylum seeker at the center Wednesday, these are the complaints that he made:

  • The manager, Nikkola, is never present. The staff sent her the complaints by asylum seekers but she refused to meet with them. The answer that the staff gave to the asylum seekers is that the manager is too busy to meet with them;
  • Whenever the asylum seekers ask for something, a staffer answers that he or she must wait for approval from the manager. They never get an answer;
  • Some of the asylum-seeker residents claim that poor communication with the manager and staff was what led to a rape at the reception center;
  • There are three suspects in the rape case: a father, his son, who is a minor, and a third person;
  • The asylum seekers told the management of the camp on a number of occasions to not let the young girl in the reception center because she had “a bad reputation” (becaue she hung around with a boy)  and warned something bad could happen to her;*
  • The minor suspected of rape is allegedly the victim’s boyfriend;*
  • The food served at the center was one complaint that the asylum seekers had and which led to a hunger strike in March.

  • The food, according to the asylum seeker, went from bad to worst. The manager threatened the asylum seekers to go move back to Iraq if they didn’t like the food;
  • The asylum seekers claim that the way the manager handles problems at the center is to transfer so-called troublemakers to other camps;
  • If families are transferred from Villa Meri, the women and children are separated from the husband;
  • Rooms are too small. A couple with four children live in a 15 square-meter room;
Rooms for asylum seekers are small.
  • No medical care is offered;
  • Dentists only extract teeth but don’t treat cavities;
  • Six-year-old children at the asylum center are not offered transportation to pre-school, which is a 3.2-kilometer walk from Villa Meri;
  • The camp offers spoiled fruit (apples, kiwi, and bananas) all the time;
  • Humiliation by the staff of the residents is constant;
  • The manager doesn’t manage the center but punishes and bullies the residents;
  • The asylum seekers vote every day on the quality of the food. If they vote that the food was good, they are never served such food again. If they vote that the food was bad, it is served three times a week.

While this is a long and comprehensive list of complaints, Migrant Tales cannot confirm if the above is true. I called the Villa Meri asylum reception center manager Nikkola about these complaints but she never answered my call and SMS message.

* We consider rape a crime and there is no justification for it. Could it be that the staff and management didn’t take enough precautions to protect their workers and volunteers from such a crime happening at Villa Meri? It’s clear that the responsibility of what happened is on the suspects but could there be negligence on behalf of the staff? 






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