The saying beggars can’t be choosy does not apparently apply to some of the refugees who have flooded into Europe recently. Hundreds of mainly Iraqi migrants who have traveled all through Europe to Finland, are leaving the country saying it is too sparsely-populated, cold and boring.
Finnish immigration authorities say they have also seen an increase in the number of cancelled asylum applications.
The refugees in recent weeks have been crossing back into Sweden at the Haparanda-Tornio border, which is an hour bus ride from the Arctic Circle. The border area is the most convenient crossing route into Finland as refugees who do not have proper travel documents are unable to take the ferries that run between Sweden and Finland.
A group of 15 male Iraqi refugees waiting for a bus to take them to Sweden from Tornio said they were not happy with what they had found in Finland.
“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 reporters.
“Finland is no good,” the other echoed.
But if some Iraqis are unhappy about being in Tornio and Finland, some locals are also wondering why they are there. “I don’t know why they come here when even our own people leave this town,” said resident Matti Alaviuhkola.
Esko Repo, the Finnish Immigration Service’s head of asylum applications, says Finland has registered over 14,000 asylum seekers so far this year, and he expects that number to rise to 30,000 by the end of the year – eight times more than last year.
But Repo says cancellations of asylum applications have risen and registrations are not being processed as fast as usual because of the recent influx of ” migrants”.
According to Repo, “by last week around 200 applications from Iraqi asylum seekers had expired,” which means the “applicant had either withdrawn it, or had disappeared”.
Media reports of Iraqis leaving Finland may slow the numbers of refugees wanting to enter Finland. Iraqis are also posting unflattering self-shot videos of Finland’s capital city Helsinki on an Iraqi migrant Facebook page to dissuade others from coming.
But still, according to officials, 500 migrants in average are arriving in Tornio each day, with 1,000 migrants being there at any given time, a number they say is stretching resources in the tranquil town of 20,000 full time residents.