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Immigration Service: More suicides by asylum seekers than previously reported

Immigration officials now say that five asylum seekers killed themselves in Finland last year, rather than just one as previously reported. The Finnish Association for Mental Health says that it believes suicides have also been carried out this year.

turvapaikanhakija
A resident of the Punavuori reception centre in Helsinki in January. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The Immigration Service (Migri) admitted on Wednesday that it has under-reported the number of suicides and suicide attempts by asylum seekers. It now says that there have been nearly 70 such attempts this year and last, with "less than 10" so far this year. The largest number of attempts took place last autumn, with 40 between August and November. The most recent case was last week at the Evitskog reception centre in Kirkkonummi.

Migri now says that five asylum seekers managed to take their own lives last year, rather just one as previously reported.

In February, the daily Helsingin Sanomat reported that only one asylum seeker committed suicide last year. That figure was based on a Migri report, which in turn was based on incident reports from reception centres.

The actual figure of five deaths comes from Migri's health team, which the agency says has the most accurate information on the situation.

Internal communication error cited

The error may have come about because reception centre managers have failed to file official incident reports to Migri, but simply told the health team about them, says Migri communications officer Kaisa Härkisaari.

For the same reason, the number of attempts may be too low, as it is based on formal incident reports.

The Finnish Association for Mental Health says that it believes suicides have also been carried out this year. The group's crisis centre director, Outi Ruishalme, tells Yle that this is based on discussions with asylum seekers and interpreters working at reception centres.

As of last month, there were 146 reception centres around Finland, as well as 76 units for under-age asylum seekers.

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