Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Why don't you take proper care of these useful citizens?"

Turun Sanomat has lately published a few articles (here is one) about how the towns around Turku are not doing their share in admitting and taking care of refugees, and see them as a burden.

Some refugees even live in a refugee center for years before getting a place in some community.

We are talking about refugees here, not about asylum seekers who are waiting to have their applications processed. Turun Sanomat does not go into details of their status, as in refugee vs. residence permit for humanitarian reason, but unless either I or Turun Sanomat or both don't understand something, we are talking about the people who have already received some legal right to reside in Finland, and are free to move around as they please, like any other Finnish resident.

Jaana Väyrynen, a social worker in SPR's Turku refugee center, says that most of the refugees waiting for a place in some town are active people and speak Finnish, who don't need any special care, normal people with normal individual needs.

Just regular folks, people. Not any kind of burden on the community.

Maybe I don't understand something here, but if they are just regular folks who are not any kind of burden on the community, why are they waiting for those communities to provide them with a place to live? As opposed to, say, renting or buying an apartment like the rest of us do? You know, they rent apartments to people who have the money to pay the rent.

Not that I think refugees should never be any burden on their community. Some of them, for example, happen to be elderly, some happen to be handicapped, some happen to be very newly arrived, etc. But it does sound a bit silly when communities are pressured to resettle them there because they are allegedly not a burden to the community.

I have met a lot of refugees, both in the US and in Finland, who were just regular folks who placed no burden on their community whatsoever and could take care of themselves. I don't need to be convinced that they exist, I know it. I am just pretty sure that they are not among the people who are waiting for a placement in some community around Turku. Because people who can take care of themselves do not by definition need such a placement.

Mind you, some of those folks might be useful citizens in the future, and deserve our support, etc., etc. It's just weird to ask for support by claiming that these are the people who don't really need it.

The Iraqi guy whom they mentioned in one of the articles is a particularly unfortunate example. 24 years old, of which 3.5 have been spent in the refugee center. Maybe there is something to this story that either the guy himself or Turun Sanomat do not mention, but otherwise, WTF? During this time he could have either used his valuable skills (assuming he had any) to find a job and rent an apartment, or applied to some educational institution, and gotten himself a room in student apartment.

I knew an Iraqi refugee once. Unlike the guy in the example, he was in his late fifties. OK, it helped that he was in the US, and that he already spoke English, but within a couple of months of arriving into the country he did get himself a job in a supermarket. Somehow, I suspect that a 24-year-old who could not manage the same in 3.5 years is not very likely to become a productive citizen in a near future.

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