Kolari is a town of 3,857 people located 166km north of Tornio and about 80km north of the Arctic Circle. The town also has an asylum reception run by the Red Cross that houses about 150 people, or 5% of the town’s population, located 4-5km from the town center.
Imagine being sent to the middle of nowhere where nobody speaks your language, understands your culture and on top of it you get threatened by the manager of the reception center.
“We’ve been living in this camp for eight months and want to transfer out of this place that is a living hell,” an asylum seeker at the camp said. “The food is also horrible and there is nothing to do here.”
The manager allegedly threatens the asylum seekers at the reception center.
“When I told the manager that I want to be transferred with my family to Tornio he said that he had a document from Migri [the Finnish Immigration Service] that showed that we’d be sent back to Iraq,” the person said. “When I asked him to show me the document he refused.”
The manager, which takes asylum seekers to visit the Finnish Immigration Service in Rovaniemi, charges each person 10 euros for the trip. Ten euros is a lot of money if your monthly allowance is 92.50 euros.
CORRECTED: The reception center doesn’t charge asylum seekers to take them to see the Finnish Immigration Service in Rovaniemi. People who go with the minibus to shop in Rovaniemi or Oulu are charged 10 euros.
UPDATE (May 2): Migrant Tales has learned that the manager charges 3 euros per asylum seeker if they want to play football.
“Once the manager told me to ‘shut up’ and threatened that my file was sent to Migri and that we won’t get asylum,” the person said.
The Kolari asylum reception center was formerly a hotel. It is located about 5km from the town center.
The other problem that some asylum seekers experience at the camp is insufficient medical attention.
“There is no hospital near the camp,” the asylum seeker said. “A nurse visits the center three times a week. It takes about two days to get an appointment to see her.”
The asylum seeker said that Panadol is the only medicine given to the residents.
The rooms where the asylum seekers sleep are small and crowded.
A room where asylum seekers wash their clothes at the Kolari reception center.
“My wife, who is pregnant, was given Panadol for some pains that she had in the stomach area,” the asylum seeker continued. “When we went to see a doctor he wondered why Panadol* had been given to her because she’s pregnant (sic).”
The asylum seeker said he needed insulin and blood tests for his condition. The nurse told him that such tests would be taken when he got his residence permit.
“By that time I could be dead,” the asylum seeker told her.
Residents of the reception center were sent to do snow plowing work for no pay 40km from the camp. If they don’t do as their ordered they get part of their allowance deducted.
“The food is horrible and we are forced to eat what they serve otherwise we’d die of hunger,” the asylum seeker continued. “With the little money we get we buy our own food like eggs and tomatoes.”
“Please help us,” the asylum seeker pleaded. “No one hears us.”
* Panadol can be consumed by pregnant women.
A story by the Swedish-language service of YLE published Wednesday states basically the same things as Migrant Tales.