Undocumented: "only bad options available"

Jussi Partanen / Finnish Red Cross
Jussi Partanen / Finnish Red Cross

The window blinds have been lowered. No one needs to know whether someone is home in the flat. The two-room flat in Pori houses a varying number of men whose application for asylum was rejected.

  • A person who is often particularly vulnerable and whose life is challenging and unsafe
  • Has decided to stay in Finland without a legal right of residence
  • Is in danger of being taken advantage of, becoming a victim of human trafficking or becoming involved in criminal activities
  • Has the right to receive indispensable subsistence and care according to the Constitution of Finland, i.e. access to food, shelter and emergency health services
Assistance provided by the Red Cross to undocumented persons
  • Helps vulnerable people regardless of their legal status
  • Provides them with food, accommodation supplies, clothes and someone to talk to
  • Is prepared to increase its preparedness to aid undocumented persons
  • Is active in the Paperittomat (Undocumented) network and monitors the development of services for undocumented persons
One of them is Ali*, a 29-year-old telecommunications engineer from Baghdad. 
- “When you don’t have the necessary documents in Finland, you don’t have a future. I haven’t come up with a good solution for my situation. There are only bad options available to me.”
Thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in Finland in 2015 will end up in the same situation in the coming months. Once all levels of court have been explored without any of the appeals being successful, the asylum seeker becomes undocumented. The asylum seeker is no longer entitled to the services of a reception centre.  
- “First I waited for an asylum interview. Seven months after that, my application for asylum was rejected for the first time,” says Ali. “I waited another seven months for the second decision.” 
Some of those whose application for asylum is rejected return to their home country voluntarily, others head for Europe. However, there are many who intend to stay in Finland. Some have friends who will let them stay over. Some will be left with nothing.
In Pori, the Teljä parish is currently providing accommodation to undocumented people. Their other essential needs are taken care of by the Satakunta district office of the Finnish Red Cross, as undocumented people effectively have no income.

Acquainted with the Red Cross

Ali came to Finland a year and eight months previously. His dream was to start a normal life in Finland, learn the language and find a job. 
- “I left Iraq when bad things started happening. Because of me, other members of my family also had to leave.” 
Ali’s parents and one of his four sisters have escaped Iraq and gone to Turkey. Ali himself was smuggled to Finland across Europe. After arriving in Turku, he went to the police station to submit his application for asylum. Finally, he ended up at the Liinaharja reception centre in Pori, which was maintained by the Finnish Red Cross. 
- “I lived in good conditions at the reception centre,” says Ali. “But I was anxious because I knew that the asylum policy in Finland had become stricter.”
At the beginning of February, Ali was forced to leave Liinaharja, as he had not been granted asylum. This meant moving into emergency accommodation. 
Those residing in emergency accommodation can receive peer support from other undocumented people in the same situation. Red Cross volunteers visit undocumented people in the accommodation every day to make sure that everything is alright. 
- “They feel like a part of my family. Yesterday was a good day. We went shopping in Kontti together with Red Cross volunteers,” says Ali. 


Voluntary return? 

Ali says that he feels unsafe walking around town by himself because of his undocumented status. He also keeps thinking about an unexpected visit by the police that happened in the emergency accommodation.
- “I was shocked that the police came all the way to the flat to ask for our papers,” says Ali. “I was fined for being undocumented. I started to feel in earnest that not everyone in Finland has human rights.” 
Ali is considering returning to his home country voluntarily, but only to leave again immediately. 
- “I can’t stay in Iraq, as I believe that my life is in danger there. If I go back, I only intend to stay in Baghdad for a few days. Then I will travel through Northern Iraq again to enter Turkey illegally, as I don’t have a passport.” 
*) The name of the interviewee has been changed

Text: Maija Unkuri