07:42 GMT11 August 2020
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

    Border checks, dangerous journeys by bus and in rickety boats, refugee camps, angry traffickers and paperwork at the embassy. Over 200 Finnish pupils got to experience life as a refugee in an unconventional school outing.

    Last week, Finnish pupils took part in what was called "Refugee day," arranged by Red Cross Åland in cooperation with Godby Secondary School and a number of other organizations. The students participated in the role play scenario aimed at acquainting the pupils with life as a refugee and they were even assigned code names to make the situation more realistic.

    "This is the second time we've held such an event. We hope that this will be able to counter xenophobia and increase the understanding of refugees' situation. It is of special importance that some of the quota refugees, who arrived at the Åland archipelago in November, also took part in the role playing scenario, in the roles of aid workers of the Red Cross," Olof Collin at the Red Cross Åland told Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.

    The adverse weather conditions, involving both wind and rain, were far from optimal for the events usually held at the school, yet helped to make the experience of being a refugee even more lifelike.

    Representatives of the Finnish news agency FNB were on the beach in Haraldsby, when a boat filled with "refugees" arrived. Schoolchildren, which were quickly driven by "smugglers" to the next stop, described the experience as "hard" and "cold."

    "People have been screaming at us, forced us into the forest among the branches and shrubbery. The whole thing was very difficult. The hardest thing we had to endure was the sea voyage, which was very cold and wet," a pupil said, as quoted by Hufvudstadsbladet.

    Last year, Finland took a record 32,476 asylum-seekers and 1,034 "quota refugees," Finland's Migration Service reported. About 20 of them have settled down on the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous Swedish-speaking region of Finland. The archipelago of roughly 30,000 enjoys a broad autonomy, maintaining its own government, police force and tax service. Åland's contribution to Finland's integration effort was largely criticized as "deficient," with Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö of the right-wing populist Finns' Party being among the most vocal critics. In particular, Ålandic Democracy, a local nationalist party, opposes receiving "high-risk" refugees.

    ​Previously, MP Teuvo Hakkarainen of the populist-nationalist Finns' Party, which often clashes with the Swedish-speaking Åland, proposed that all the country's homosexuals should be relegated to Åland. When last year's migrant crisis was at its peak, the very same Hakkarainen proposed sending all incoming refugees to Åland since it was Finland's richest province.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)


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