Surroundings of Commercial Refugee Hubs in Focus At Finland

Conditions in commercial refugee centres in spotlight in Finland


An investigation done by Finland’s largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has found out that the experience of an asylum seeker may be hugely different based on whether he or she has ended up in a commercially operated refugee center or a Red Cross or municipal facility.

The paper published the investigation result on Sunday, and thus aroused discussion about the moral sustainability of arranging services for refugees on a commercial “for-profit basis”.

The investigation concentrated on a subsidiary of a major staff and accommodation provider that currently houses 2,300 asylum seekers and employs 350 people in several locations. They had been in the business of providing housing for homeless and mental health rehab accommodation before entering the refugee market.

So far there are ten other commercial care companies contracted by the Finnish authority.

Jorma Kuuluvainen, head of the unit supervising reception centers at the Immigration Authority, admitted to Helsingin Sanomat that control had failed. “We thought that accommodation and basic services should be taken care first, but our role should have been bigger.”

As the rate of arrival of refugees overwhelmed the authorities’ capacity last September, the bidding system was skipped and many locations were contracted as a direct purchase.

It was not until in April that the Immigration Authority launched a proper control scheme. “Now we go to see a center, if necessary”, HS quoted Kuuluvainen as saying.

The norms of Immigration Authority require that reception centers should have one nurse and one social worker per 150 inhabitants. Representatives of the company admitted to HS they only reached the ratio “over the winter”.

HS found out unqualified guards were given the powers to decide whether a refugee is allowed to see a doctor. HS reported refugees had extracted teeth on their own to stop pain.

The health care problems surfaced in January when a 21-year old Afghan refugee died of a brain hemorrage at a commercially operated center near Helsinki.

Secrecy orders beyond client privacy have prevailed. HS reported that the operator fired staffers who had complained about the conditions. Work contracts required keeping quiet about company matters. In some cases also volunteers were demanded to sign a gag order.

Besides health care issues, security in for-profit centers has been rough. Guards with an immigrant background have occasionally favored their ethnic compatriots and discriminated others. HS was told that guards were fired for their tough behavior.

The salary gap in commercial operators has been wide. A staffer said he had made 10,000 euros a month for doing night shifts, while personnel with an immigrant background were only paid 10 or 12 euros per hour. “Immigrants did not know their labour rights and could be intimidated”. (1 euro = 1.12 U.S. dollars) Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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