Finland’s smallest city is Kaskinen, an island off the Ostrobothnian coast. The island has been struggling economically since the local Metsä-Botnia pulp mill closed in 2009, and its port has faced a traffic slump. One of the municipality’s key goals was to get more people to move there, and that’s what 70 asylum seekers have done.
The small island ‘city’ of Kaskinen, with a population of 1321 people, is a quiet place where jobs are hard to come by. The latest figures show that 15.4 percent of local residents are looking for work – compared with the national average of 8.3percent. The recent arrival of 70 asylum seekers has helped the town meet its population goals.
While city board chair Carl-Gustav Mangs says he’s pleased with the influx of new residents, he wonders what they will do since unemployment is such a problem for the municipality.
From Kosovo to Ostrobothnia
«Our biggest problem is that we have very few jobs. If we had more companies here, we’d have something to offer,» says Mangs. «As far as I understand, there are a great many asylum seekers who are happy to be here in Kaskinen. Of course I’d be very glad if more people would come to Kaskinen but we don’t have any jobs to offer them.»
The Dinollis, a couple with two sons, arrived six months ago from Kosovo, where the father, Selim Dinolli, worked as a mechanic. They live in former Metsä-Botnia employee housing.
Selim Dinolli says that if their asylum applications are approved, they want to stay on the tiny island. He tells Yle that he’s ready to do any kind of work, whether it’s fixing cars or cleaning.
Two languages to learn
The parents attend Finnish classes twice a week in the town, which is two-thirds Finnish-speaking. The boys, aged seven and 10, go to school in neighbouring Kristinestad, which is majority Swedish-speaking. So is nearby Närpes, which is home to many immigrants and a booming greenhouse industry.
The town of Kaskinen has hired two consultancy firms that tried for two years to attract more people to move there – without success. They did note that the island’s port could give it a competitive edge in the future.
«Traffic in our harbour has dropped sharply since Metsä-Botnia closed the factory,» says Mangs. «At worst it’s been down by 50 percent. But we have capacity for three or maybe four times more ships in the port than we have now.»
Mangs concedes that there’s not much hope that business at the facility will pick up until overall Finnish exports begin to recover.