The area around Hotel Tallukka was sealed off by law enforcement officers on Saturday following a suspected attempt to burn down the building.Finnish authorities will re-evaluate the security situation at reception centres and emergency accommodation facilities as part of a thorough inquiry into the functionality of the network accommodation facilities for asylum seekers.

The inquiry and its conclusions fall within the framework of the action plan on asylum policy the Government unveiled last week.

“Security issues and official resources will also be taken into consideration in establishing reception centres to ensure the security services are sufficient,” the Government affirms in the action plan. The supervision of reception centres will also be beefed up.

Information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat suggests the security assessment will be conducted by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) and the Police of Finland between December and January. The newspaper was unable to reach a member of the assessment task force for a comment on Sunday.

More on the topic:

- Government to put asylum seekers to work (09 December 2015)

- Police: Fire that broke out in a future reception centre in Rauma was lit on purpose (08 December 2015)

- Housing facility for asylum seekers evacuated in Kempele (29 November 2015)

The latest serious security incident dates back to the early hours of Saturday when a hotel designated as a reception centre was set on fire in Asikkala, Southern Finland. The incident occurred no more than a couple of days after a total of 80 people had to flee a fire that broke out at a reception centre in Tampere.

An asylum seeker was also assaulted while on their way from a reception centre to a grill kiosk in Kangasala, a municipality neighbouring Tampere, on Saturday.

The Finnish Red Cross (SPR) launched its own assessment of the security situation at the roughly one hundred reception centres it operates across the country earlier this autumn, well before the government-level decision on the assessments.

“SPR operates under the same principles all over the world,” says Kalle Löövi, the head of international operations and programmes at SPR.

“We always get started fast. In Finland, some of the units were set up at only a couple of hours' notice this autumn. We decided already in the autumn that we have to evaluate the need for changes as soon as we have the time. Decisions made under time pressures may not always be the best,” he elaborates.

SPR has according to him assigned a couple of task forces to identify the needs for improvement from the viewpoint of the premises, accommodation facilities, canteens and security.

“We've had to place people in crowded facilities,” he admits.

The congestion affects not only the functionality of the facilities but also the comfort of their residents. In Germany, for example, brawls have broken out at a number of reception centres due to the cramped conditions and tensions between Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers.

“We're set to determine whether some of the emergency accommodation facilities could be converted into reception centres,” says Löövi. “If not, we'll have to move people around. Not that they aren't moving around on their own.”

The security situation at reception centres and other accommodation facilities seems to have deteriorated after SPR launched its assessment. SPR has already installed additional surveillance cameras and hired more security personnel from a number of service providers at the reception centres it operates.

“Its unfortunate that people don't realise that they're committing serious offences,” Löövi comments on the recent arsons and attempted arsons. “Succeeding in such an offence would be very dangerous.”

Laura Halminen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Mirja Hussain