The manager of the Keuruu asylum reception center prohibits religious and cultural celebrations – is this the Finnish way of welcoming newcomers?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Migrant Tales continues to hear accounts about the Keuruu asylum reception center, where Afghan asylum seekers claim to be treated in a disrespectful manner by the staff with Iranian origin.* One of the many gripes that some asylum seekers have is against the center’s manager, Rasul Azizan, who is referred to as “a dictator” because he imposes his own rule.

One of those rules is that no religious or cultural celebrations can be held at the center.

Migrant Tales got in touch with the Keuruu asylum reception center Thursday on two occasions but the manager, Azizan, never returned my calls.

Refusing people, especially those fleeing war and oppression, from not being able to practice their religion and culture is not only an example of the lack of cultural sensitivity and poor management but against our own sound judgment and sense of fairness. The Finnish Constitution guarantees religious freedom.

The reception center is located 7 kilometers from a small town of 10,000 inhabitants.

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While the reception center manager hasn’t given a reason why he forbids religious and cultural celebrations to take place at the camp, one source claimed it was one way that Azizan discriminates and “teases” Afghans.

While we cannot confirm the latter, Migrant Tales understands that a group of Afghan, Iraqi and Somali asylum seekers had to raise 450 euros to rent a warehouse outside of the reception center to celebrate the Shiia Ashura religious holiday.

While relations between Iranians and Afghans aren’t always the best due to historical reasons and because Afghans are discriminated and treated as second-class citizens in Iran, one wonders if the Red Cross, which runs the asylum center, has taken this into consideration.

“Many Afghans have traumas about Iranians [because they were treated so badly when they lived in Iran],” a new source, who spoke on condition of anonymity said. “Doesn’t the Red Cross understand this?”

Some of the ways that Azizan and the Iranian staff allegedly treat Afghan asylum seekers at the center disrespectfully is that they don’t interact or even greet them.

“They even tell the asylum seekers that they cannot complain because they don’t have any rights [at the center],” the source added.

Another rumor at the Keuruu reception center is that there are about 5-7 relatives of the manager working there.

Migrant Tales has been unable to confirm if this is true, even if Azizan has a brother working at the kitchen of the center.

Below are some of the grievances published Thursday by Migrant Tales against the Keuruu reception center’s manager:

  • The manager is Iranian and there are some asylum seekers who believe that he has a personal grudge against Afghans. Close to a million Afghans live in Iran as refugees and as second-class citizens;
  • There is no cooperation between the asylum seekers and the manager. “The boss of the camp makes up his own rules, according to an asylum seeker;”
  • All of the interpreters speak Farsi and are Iranian, not Afghans, who speak Dari. Both languages are close relatives but are not the same language;
  • No cultural or religious ceremonies are allowed at the refugee center but Christian pastors (Pentecostal?) recently visited the camp;
  • Recently, asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia had to rent a warehouse for 450 euros outside of the center for five days because they weren’t allowed to celebrate the Ashura religious holiday at the refugee center;
  • Contact with Finnish people isn’t encouraged. There are no volunteer;
  • The center was given used clothes and shoes from Finns. Some at the reception are asking why the clothes weren’t given to the asylum seekers;
  • Some relatives of the manager, like his brother who works in the kitchen, are suspected of being employed at the center.

* Migrant Tales originally called the manager and his workers “Iranian.” They may have Finnish citizenship.