Asylum seekers crossing the border from Sweden into Tornio will, starting today, be directed to a new hub, a so-called hotspot, set up in a former general upper secondary school where they must stay until the authorities have registered their arrival.
Captain Jukka Savolainen from the Finnish Border Guard revealed on Monday that bus operators have been notified of the new arrangement but refrained from confirming whether or not the new instructions also apply to taxi operators.
The arrivals have previously continued their journey from Tornio to Kemi and thereon to Southern Finland.
The authorities are also intent on stepping up the monitoring of arrivals, added Savolainen. “We’re intent on placing people moving near the border under monitoring and escort them to this centre without exceptions,” he said.
The new hotspot will employ dozens of police officers.
The arrivals have to be registered as soon as possible as the centre can only accommodate 200 people. “People will spend a night or two here before getting to proper beds in reception centres,” said Jukka-Pekka Kaasinen, the head of on-site operations for the Finnish Red Cross (SPR).
The asylum seekers will not be allowed to leave the former general upper secondary school to do the groceries before they have been registered but will have access to meals in the school cafeteria. A fence will be erected to designate the smoking areas but not to seal off the entire school yard.
Päivi Nerg, a permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, expects the hotspot to reduce the chaos in Tornio. “From now on, we’ll be able to know who have arrived and register them within 72 hours. We’ll speed up taking care of both the registrations and asylum decisions, which determine who will start their integration process and who will leave Finland.”
The asylum seekers will be transported from the hotspot to one of the six additional reception centres that will be opened in the country this week.
The Tornio Reception Centre was bustling with people on Monday as yet another bus-load of asylum seekers arrived from Sweden and rushed into buses destined for Kemi. Helsinki was the final destination for many of the arrivals. Yassir Adnan Al Taie told that he had heard many in the bus speak about their desire to reunite with their family members who are already in Helsinki as soon as possible.
People volunteering for SPR encouraged the arrivals to stay in the emergency facilities set up in Tornio, but no more than a couple were willing to do so.
The number of asylum seekers who decide to return to Sweden has grown notably. Mahmud Xalaf, for example, revealed that he had already visited his family members in Helsinki but had decided to return to Sweden for registration. “People were unfriendly,” he explained.
The City Council of Tornio was expected to show a green light to the proposal to transform the former general upper secondary school into a hotspot on Monday.