Hundreds of predominantly Iraqi migrants who have travelled through Europe to reach Finland are turning back to Sweden, saying they don’t want to stay in the sparsely-populated country on Europe’s northern frontier because it’s too cold and boring. Sweden may be just as cold as Finland, but Sweden has bigger Muslim welfare communities.
Arab News Migrants have in recent weeks been crossing back into Sweden at the Haparanda-Tornio border just an hour’s drive south of the Arctic Circle, and Finnish authorities have seen a rise in the number of cancelled asylum applications.
Muslim refugees wish they had never come to Europe, want to go home. In a video, posted on a popular Facebook page, Iraqi refugees warn their fellow countrymen against moving to Europe, Finnish television reported on Tuesday.
“If you are serious about moving over here, don’t! We are already looking for ways to get back home. We wish we never came here. We paid huge sums for nothing. It was a mistake!” the migrants said in their video message, Yle TV channel reported.
They said that life in Europe was hard, much harder than many Iraqis think, and that being a refugee was a “terribly humiliating” experience.
“You can tell the world I hate Finland. It’s too cold, there’s no tea, no restaurants, no bars, nobody on the streets, only cars,” 22-year-old Muhammed told AFP in Tornio, as the mercury struggled to inch above 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) on a recent blustery grey day.
He had already travelled from Tornio to the capital Helsinki almost 750 kilometres (465 miles) south, and then back up to the Tornio border again to return to Sweden. Migrants who lack proper travel documents are unable to take the ferries that run between Helsinki and Stockholm.
Another group of around 15 Iraqi refugees waiting at the bus station that Tornio shares with its Swedish twin town Haparanda also said they wanted to go back to southern Sweden.
On September 19, several busloads of migrants made U-turns on the Swedish side when they saw more than 500 Finns form a “human barrier” on the Finnish side to protest against the sudden influx of Muslims.
Anti-Muslim sentiment may be prompting some migrants to leave Finland, where the populist anti-Islamization True Finns Party is the second-biggest political party.
Early Friday, around 40 demonstrators — including one dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit — threw fireworks at a bus transporting asylum seekers to a new reception centre in the southern city of Lahti. Another incident took place late Thursday in Kouvola, in southeastern Finland, when a 50-year-old man threw a petrol bomb at an emergency housing facility for Muslim freeloaders.
But according to the Finnish Immigration Service’s head of asylum applications, Esko Repo, “by last week around 200 applications from Iraqi asylum seekers had expired,” meaning the applicant had either withdrawn it or disappeared.
Finland has registered over 14,000 asylum seekers so far this year, and it expects a total of at least 30,000 by the end of the year — eight times as many as in 2014.
The 30,000 expected this year may end up dropping: media reports said some Iraqis were posting self-shot videos of Helsinki on a Facebook page popular among Iraqi migrants to dissuade others from coming.
“The flow from the border has been out of control. I have been scared and have avoided going shopping in the evenings because we don’t know who these people are,” a 66-year-old pensioner who gave her name as Kirsti, told AFP. Some local business owners have accused “the dark men” or “these southerners” of pilferage and harassing women.
The Finnish government sent dozens of police, border guards, customs and military to step up alien controls at the border, where locals have crossed freely between Sweden and Finland since the 1960s.