Why did Finland allocate so much money on asylum reception centers that treated in too many cases refugees like “livestock?”

by , under The Supermen

Who watches over, never mind defends, the rights of asylum seekers?

The Supermen*

In 2015 and 2016 some 38,000 asylum seekers [1] came to Finland and scores of asylum reception centers sprung up rapidly throughout the country to house these people. Even if the government’s answer to the ever-growing number of asylum seekers was “to make Finland unattractive for asylum seekers,” these people did a service to Finland by helping expose our ineffective and costly immigration and integration policy.

Disagree? How is it possible that it takes for some migrants 5-7 years before they can knock on the door of an employer and ask for a job?

Why is migrant unemployment many times higher than the national average?

Why do migrants get paid on average 25% less than white Finns?

It’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done to lessen the pay gap between migrants and white Finns and lower high unemployment levels.

Fabrication or the truth?

An anti-racist colleague at the recently held Golden Family Awards in Helsinki exposed an interesting problem about our reporting of asylum seekers this year.

“When I started to read [the first] stories [from January] about that abuses that asylum seekers were suffering at reception centers, the first matter that crossed my mind was if they are true because they were so unbelievable,” the person said. “How could people in our country treat others in such a terrible manner?”

For Migrant Tales, 2016 was the year of investigative journalism. We published 128 news stories on asylum reception centers, interviewed scores of asylum seekers, and got in touch with many newspapers. Our efforts helped us to get the deputy manager of the Kolari asylum reception center fired.

Asylum seekers who are minors wrote a letter to Pitäjänuutiset in the fall explaining why they are seeking asylum in Finland.

Our network of sources involves comprises of a journalist and Arab-speakers who know the asylum-seeker situation in Finland as well as the back of their hand.

In the beginning, nobody wanted to write about such abuses never mind read about the terrible stories we started to expose to the public. When Migrant Tales approached Helsingin Sanomat in January,  the reporter at Finland’s largest daily gave little importance to the carefully investigated story we sent showing abuses at Luona, a private company controlled by Barona that managed back then reception centers in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, and Hyvinkää.

The reporter even admitted that she hadn’t even read the full story and compared it with complaints that the newspaper receives from pensioners at retirement homes. This, however, changed in the months ahead when Helsingin Sanomat started to publish stories about the problems at asylum reception centers.

Apparently, nobody cared too much about the situation of asylum seekers in Finland back then except for a few voices like Migrant Tales and Suomen Kuvalehti, which was the first publication in Finland that started to expose such problems through the death of a young Afghan asylum seeker, Jayyed Abbas Jafari, who died of a brain hemorrhage.

Migrant Tales wrote in January:

“He [Jayyed Abbas jafari] went for three consecutive days to ask for help from the nurse because he suffered from headaches,” a source told Migrant Tales. “Each time he was told by the nurse to take Burana and drink tea. On the fourth day he collapsed and died and was taken to the hospital.”

One matter that we still don’t know is if Jafari’s death was due to insufficient treatment or other causes like negligence on behalf of Luona. Does the private company cut corners in medical care in order to maximize profits?

Thanks to the surge in asylum seekers in 2015, Luona’s turnover soared as a result.

 

Luona’s profits soared by 366% in 2015. Source: Suomen Kuvalehti.

We believe that companies like Luona and other asylum reception centers that treated refugees in a degrading manner could do so with near-impunity because the government and the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) cared too little about their plight. They were more interested in fueling the xenophobic climate in Finland than protecting their basic human rights.

How is it possible that an asylum-seeker family of five are kept in a small 15-square-meter room for months on end? If I had a small apartment and it housed so many people, my children would be given custody to child protection.

Migrant Tales got in touch with an official of Rauma’s child protection unit and asked why asylum seeker families are allowed to live in such small quarters and Finnish residents would get into trouble with the authorities if they do.

The official never called back after she promised to find out about the discrepancy.

What about when a reception center crams as many asylum seekers as possible in a room without ventilation or windows?

Why haven’t we heard from the government a single word about the abuses at such reception centers that we have exposed and if the situation has improved?

The answer is simple: The government doesn’t care and wants these people to leave Finland at any cost, even if it means turning them into undocumented migrants.

In April, 107 MPs including the Social Democrats approved law 2/2016 that did away with granting residence permits on humanitarian grounds. Thanks to the law, Finland faces today an unprecedented rise of undocumented migrants that will soar from a few hundred to the thousands.

Government cover-up 

Turning a blind eye and being too lenient on allowing abuses to occur at reception centers paves the way for other abuses to take place. One of the most important of these is if taxpayers’ money has been spent effectively and that people are treated with the same dignity that we demand as well.

In our first story on asylum centers, we asked why the media, the government, and reception centers are so quiet about the people they are giving shelter and food.

The answer to that question is, we believe, in government self-praise that is not only deceptive but covers-up a politically embarrassing situation. The government didn’t do a good job in taking care of these asylum seekers if in many of such centers. On the contrary, it did a poor and expensive job with little regulation.

There was little regulation because there was little political will to do so from the government, which insinuated that these people were guilty of being economic migrants.

For the government, searching for a better life and fleeing violence weren’t valid reasons for coming to Finland.

Considering that Migrant Tales’ limited sources were able to expose alleged negligence and abuse at some reception centers, we are still surprised why the government and other players like the Luona and the Red Cross do so little.

Considering that the government allocated close to a billion euros to house and take care of these asylum seekers in 2016, why was there so little interest about the treatment of asylum seekers? Was it a government cover-up? Was it sending a message to other would-be asylum seekers not to come to Finland because if you do you’re going to have to live in asylum reception centers where people are treated “like livestock” or forced to reside in “a living hell?

If the government has budgeted such a hefty sum of money, why does it take months for the Migri to decide on their asylum applications? Is it because it is a systematic plan to discourage people from coming to Finland and to encourage asylum seekers here to leave the country?

We believe so since the logic to turn down over 80% of asylum requests has nothing to do with reality in Iraq, Afghanistan or in Somalia. Existing policy is guided by politics and the Perussuomalaiset [2], a xenophobic party that forms part of Prime Minister Sipilä’s government.

If we want to see the worst examples of Finnish racism and discrimination, asylum centers would be the place to find such shameful and unacceptable behavior.

The fact that some reception centers treat asylum seekers in such a racist and abusive manner reveals that they are out of touch with our values and laws and able to carry on as before thanks to our denial and loathing of such people.

Wake up Finland

The abuses that many asylum seekers continue to suffer in Finland are many. They are not fabricated stories or a figment of our imagination. They are real and expose our official and public denial of the social ills that lurk in our society like racism and bigotry.

As long as politicians, the media, and the public continue to deny the gravity of such a problem, the situation will only get worse.

We hope that our coverage of asylum reception centers and their residents in 2016 will help to foster a better understanding of the problem and to find proactive solutions.

We are not holding our breaths, however. We are pessimistic that the present government headed by Prime Minister Sipilä can improve the situation of asylum seekers never mind that of migrants and minorities living in this country because they have shown over and over again their disdain for us.

 

Ville Ranta is a cartoonist that has exposed the cold-hearted hypocrisy of the government. Here’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, officials of the Finnish Immigration Service and Finnish Security Intelligence Police telling an asylum seeker to stop splashing blood on them.

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Stories published by Migrant Tales on asylum reception centers during 2016

January

February

March

April

May 

June

July

August

September

October

November 

December

* “The Supermen” are a group of concerned citizens who helped to expose the abuses and racism at some of Finland’s reception centers. Some of them want to be anonymous because it would impede their priceless work in exposing future injustices and abuses of asylum seekers, migrants and minorities. 

[1] In 2015, 32,476 asylum seekers came to Finland and in 2016, or to December 25, it was 5,589 asylum seekers, which is an 82.8% drop from the previous year, according to the Finnish Immigration Service. 

[2] The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”