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Trouble brewing at Finland’s migrant reception centres

The Finnish Immigration Service has reported an increased number of fights at asylum seeker reception centres.

Published: August 8, 2018, 9:01 am

    According to the Finnish Immigration Service, Migri, tensions have increased at Finland’s network of reception centres for asylum seekers. When Migri notified the National Bureau of Investigation of the rising tensions, the report was leaked to the press.

    Since the start of 2018, the agency has registered 20 to 60 fights between migrants at such centres every month.

    Aggressive behaviour towards staff manning the centres number 10 and 15 cases per month, according to the Finnish public broadcaster Yle.

    Some 11 400 asylum seekers are currently housed in centres throughout the country, and it is estimated that at least 9 000 of applicants have been rejected by authorities. Those who have been denied a residence permit, are often appealing the decision.

    “There is more unrest at reception centres than there has been in the past. The most common symptom behind this is depression. Negative decisions can cause anxiety. If disagreements or conflicts crop up, some people lose their temper and end up fighting,” Kimmo Lehto, the head of section at the Immigration Service, said.

    Reception centre employees have received “special training” to deal with this.

    “Staff has been trained in how to interact with people who have mental health issues. We have a direct line to health care providers and we can tap into mental health services, too, if needed. People with severe problems have access to institutional care,” Lehto explained.

    The southern city of Lahti has been singled out for enhanced services to asylum seekers in need of special support. “Most of the people there are depressed. They are in Lahti for three-month treatment periods, for example. We try to make sure that the situation doesn’t deteriorate so that institutional care is required.” Lehto noted.

    Ari Jokinen, police inspector at the National Police Board, denied that the security situation at Finland’s reception centres was deteriorating.

    “The security situation is good. We visit the reception centres to talk with the staff and Immigration Services representatives whenever we get the chance. Our aim is to maintain the best possible cooperation on the local level,” he said.

    Lehto confirmed that the centres do not present a greater risk than before to their surrounding environment. “It is part of the same phenomenon that we have seen in Finnish health care sector. Nurses and doctors are seeing more cases of violent behaviour.”

    Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho earlier sharply criticised European Union plans to impose an obligatory asylum seeker burden-sharing programme that would re-distribute asylum seekers to all member states.

    He said giving EU members the option of paying financial support to frontline countries, was not an option.

    “It’s in no way realistic. Asylum seekers don’t apply for asylum in the EU’s poorest countries. Requiring them to fork out monetary sanctions would be an unsustainable solution, both politically and economically. From Finland’s point of view as a member state, it would be wiser and cheaper to pay fines instead of taking people in, because we all know their integration prospects into the Finnish labour market,” the anti-immigrant MEP said.

    Halla-aho said that problems can hardly be managed by transferring asylum applicants from one country to another, since the the root cause remains immigration in general.

    “Migratory pressures from Africa and the Middle East are not going to go away. It will prove to be the challenge of the century for Europe,” he predicted.

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