Warm clothes donated by Finland’s residents have been taken into use in recent days throughout the country’s asylum seeker reception centres and emergency shelters, as temperatures have begun to dip below freezing even in the south. In some locations, there is still a shortage of warm men’s clothing and shoes.
A family from Iraq seeking asylum in Finland recently arrived in Suonenjoki wearing just knee-length shorts, short-sleeve shirts and flip-flops. According to Teija Savolainen, a Red Cross director at the Vanha Maamiehen emergency shelter, it is hardly a rare occurrence among the refugees making their way to this central Finnish city.
Suonenjoki hosts 155 registered asylum seekers at present, and most of them are children. The last busload of 49 arrived this Thursday. Even though the newcomers are provided with clothes on their arrival, several find it hard to adjust to wearing clothes that are appropriate for the chilly Finnish climate.
Savolainen says that one evening when it was minus four degrees Celsius outside, a young girl set off for the local store a few kilometres away with only thin leggings, a hoodie and a summer hat on.
“By the time she returned, she was as stiff as a board, she was so cold,” Savolainen says.
Many think a jacket is sufficient
Pavil and Maadal arrived in Suonenjoki from Iraq with their children. They say they left their home country with winter clothes in tow, but were forced to leave behind many of their bags to avoid excess weight on their boat trip from Turkey to Greece.
In Germany, the Red Cross provided the family of four with jackets, scarves and hats. These proved invaluable during the rest of their autumn journey to Finland. They were not shy to use them, either, a problem some other refugees can face.
“They have no idea how cold it is here. Many of them imagine that wearing a winter jacket is enough and go outside with the zipper open and their ankles, chest and neck exposed. I have to go and tap them on the head to remind them to use a hat and gloves,” says Merja Immonen, the owner of the shelter facility.
Never seen a snowsuit before
While still in need of young men’s clothes and shoes, the Suonenjoki emergency shelter has received a sufficient amount of children’s winter gear in donations. Now all that is left is for the shelter’s personnel to convince its occupants how important the proper attire will soon be.
“One children’s snowsuit that probably cost over 100 euros when it was new has laid there on top of the donation pile with no takers for a long time now. I have tried to tell our residents that they will need it when the snow comes, but they just say ‘snow is beautiful’ in reply. I answer that ‘yes it is, but it can also be cold and wet,” says Immonen.