At the day centre, undocumented people can forget their worries for a moment

Noora Kero
Volunteers Firas and Drakhshan help undocumented people at the multicultural day centre in Helsinki.
Image: Noora Kero

The multicultural day centre in Helsinki is visited by a dozen or so undocumented people every day. Inside, visitors can drink a cup of coffee or tea, enjoy a bowl of warm soup and chat with the day centre’s staff or volunteers. Advice and help is at hand for difficult situations.

Helsinki’s multicultural day centre Mosaiikki
  • Open to all who need help. Serves the needs of undocumented people in particular.
  • Operates in cooperation with the Parish Union of Helsinki, the Red Cross and the Finnish Blue Ribbon Foundation.
  • During opening hours, there is an Arabic and Somali language interpreter, a Dari language employee and volunteers from organisations present at the centre.
  • The staff and volunteers provide assistance with preparing basic social assistance applications, direct visitors to emergency accommodation and other services in Helsinki and provide support and advice on how to seek health care services, for example.
  • External legal aid is available once a week.
  • Further information: Eva Kuhlefelt, Finnish Red Cross tel: +358 (0)40-648 6785

-    The day centre is a place where undocumented people can rest easy. A place where you can forget your troubles, at least for a moment, says Drakhshan, a Red Cross volunteer and former refugee.

Being a retired teacher who speaks Kurdish, English, Arabic and Farsi, Drakhshan is able to help many undocumented people in their own language. She provides help with translations and serves as an interpreter during doctor’s appointments, for example.

-    When a person gets to talk in their own language, their emotions often spill out. Disappointment, frustration and hate are all let out. I’m worried about undocumented people. They are very tired and mentally exhausted, says Drakhshan.

Contacts from all over Finland

Firas, who has spent just over two years in Finland and is an asylum seeker himself, serves as a Finnish Blue Ribbon Foundation volunteer at the day centre. He assists with cleaning, meets with undocumented people at the day centre and helps whenever his own phone rings.

- I get calls from undocumented people from all over Finland, asking where they could sleep or get a meal.  Luckily I’ve formed a network during my time here.

Firas has done many different types of volunteer work while in Finland. He has helped in a reception centre kitchen, served as a volunteer in organisations and sorted clothes at second-hand shops.

- I understand undocumented people since I’m a refugee myself. I do the best I can for them. I was raised to believe that other people should be helped. I’m lucky to be in good health and have energy. If I cannot help and someone is deported, I am sad, says Firas.

The same hopes and dreams as everyone else

Drakhshan tries to build hope and encourage undocumented people: one day everything will be better. She urges everyone to be active, learn the language, exercise and do volunteer work. And to find accurate information about things.

-    Many are so tired that they are unable to process any information. When they receive help and support, they can gradually start making decisions about the future.
Drakhshan, who came to Finland as a quota refugee from Kurdistan 21 years ago, says that people from her native land sometimes contact her to ask whether they should move to Finland.

-    I tell them that they shouldn’t. Do not leave your home country, the risk is too great. You might be given inaccurate information about travel routes, and even risk drowning. If you can possibly stay, then stay in your home country, says Drakhshan about her advice.

-    Finns are used to hard work and have built their country from almost nothing. Working is valued here. You shouldn’t come here just to be here. At the moment it is also very difficult to get a residence permit here, she continues.

However, Drakhshan believes that many of the refugees who are already here could make good taxpayers.  And she hopes with all her heart that they do. Drakhshan is particularly concerned about young people, being a mother of four herself.
-    Undocumented people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else: getting married, starting a family, finding a job, taking care of their own finances. Normal things. They have energy, they should be allowed to achieve their hopes and dreams.