Hundreds of predominantly Iraqi migrants who have travelled through Europe to reach Finland are turning back, saying they don’t want to stay in the sparsely-populated country on Europe’s northern frontier because it’s too cold and boring. 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.
“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.
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. “Finland is no good,” the men echoed each other.
Sweden may be just as cold as Finland, but Sweden has bigger immigrant communities because of a longer history of integration. On September 19, several busloads of migrants made U-turns on the Swedish side when they saw hundreds of Finns form a “human barrier” on the Finnish side to protest against the sudden influx of migrants. Anti-immigrant sentiment may be prompting some migrants to leave Finland, where the populist Finns Party is the second-biggest political party.
If the governments won’t stop an invasion, the people will.