The Finnish Red Cross must take action to correct the alleged abuses at the Laajakoski asylum reception center near Kotka

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Migrant Taleand Kymen Sanomat published on Saturday and Sunday stories about the problems and abuses that asylum seekers face at the Red Cross-run Laajakoski reception center. The fact that incompetence, poor management, and abuses of asylum seekers take place at the reception center near Kotka is unacceptable. 

What is even more incredible is the Laajakoski reception center’s manager, Saija Makkonen, who won’t comment about the serious allegations.

We wonder if the abuse and mistreatment of asylum seekers at Laajakoski are “individual cases” or a worrying trend.

Are Deputy Manager Tiina Meisola telling asylum seekers to go back to where they came from and mocking a suicide attempt “individual cases?”  What about a nurse, who allegedly told an asylum seeker that she didn’t care if she died in Finland or Iraq?

The long list of complaints by the asylum seekers reveals that the management has lost control of the situation and apparently wants to brush the serious problems of the reception center under the carpet.

Migrant Tales and Kymen Sanomat revealed the problems that asylum seekers face at the Laajakoski reception center.

Considering that we’ve written a lot of stories about the problems of only three asylum reception centers managed by the Red Cross and other ones run by private companies begs a question: Are these cases exceptions or a worrying trend?

In all of the cases cited above, management, or incompetent management and unqualified staff, are at the heart of the problem. It’s from such mismanagement where abuse arises.

In the case of private companies like Mehiläinen and Luona that profit from the suffering of people, we confront the same issues: incompetent management and  unqualified staff coupled with little will to improve matters.

Considering that the Finnish state invested this year near-one-billion euros in dealing with the large influx of asylum seekers that came in 2015, we should ask as taxpayers if our money is spent effectively or used to make the lives of people miserable. It’s clear that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government, which is hostile to migrants and especially asylum seekers, doesn’t want to answer this question because it would be a political embarrassment.

Why does a blog like Migrant Tales, active asylum seekers or lone newsmagazines like Suomen Kuvalehti have to sound the alarm? In January, newspapers like Helsingin Sanomat weren’t interested in asylum reception centers and compared them with the complaints they receive from elderly homes.

In our opinion the silence of the government in the face of these abuses reveals denial and the problem that Finland faces as it becomes ever-culturally and ethnically diverse. If a problem is denied it cannot be corrected. The other factor preventing us from correcting these problems is our ethnocentrism and false belief that we are are a society founded on social equality.

Aren’t we preaching this near-constantly to asylum seekers? But for whom? Certainly not Others.

We should thank the 32,476 asylum seekers that came to Finland last year for exposing the serious problems of our immigration policy, asylum reception centers, and how we see cultural diversity and deny social ills like racism.

Asylum seekers have proven that we aren’t such an open society to difference after all but one that is quite hostile to it.