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Pastor: Helsinki parishes ready to host up to 1,000 Ukrainian refugees

The City of Helsinki is also gearing up for the eventual arrival of refugees, according to the deputy mayor.

Tuhannet ihmiset jonottivat Ukrainen ja Puolan välisellä Punkt Shehynin rajavyöhykkeellä.
Thousands of people at Ukraine's border with Poland on February 25, 2022. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle
Yle News

The City of Helsinki and local church parishes are preparing for the expected arrival of Ukrainian refugees to Finland.

Parishes in the city are already prepared to host emergency accommodation for up to 1,000 refugees, according to Lutheran pastor Juha Rintamäki from the Lauttasaari Parish.

"We can offer more accommodation if the situation worsens," he said.

Pastors from across the city are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Rintamäki said they will discuss potential accommodation facilities.

"Churches are very suitable for short-term emergency accommodation," he said, adding that local parishes are prepared to quickly arrange spaces for 500-1,000 people.

He noted that parishes also have facilities that could be suitable for longer-term accommodation with bathrooms and showers.

Meanwhile, Helsinki Deputy Mayor, Daniel Sazonov (NCP), said that the city already has a contingency plan in place for sudden and unexpected crises, adding that preparations for repercussions from Russia's attack on Ukraine has already started and that the city has set up a Ukrainian crisis team.

"Helsinki will do everything necessary," Sazonov said.

Sazonov: City, other agencies monitoring situation

The deputy mayor said that the city is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine along with other authorities, including the Border Guard and police, adding that Ukranians will be able to enter Finland without a visa.

"If a person applies for asylum upon arrival, or after the permitted period of stay in the country, his or her case will be transferred to the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri)," he said, emphasising that asylum applications are handled by Migri.

He said that cooperation between various agencies and municipalities is vital in order to handle a situation in which a large number of Ukrainian's arrive in Finland.

He added that cities need to prepare for a larger influx of refugees and that Helsinki plans close cooperation with its neighbouring cities of Espoo and Vantaa as well as other municipalities across Uusimaa.

"All those fleeing the war in Ukraine will be offered help," Sazonov said.

Pastor Rintamäki said that lessons were learned during the influx of refugees from the Middle East in 2015, when about 30,000 arrived in Finland from countries including Iraq and Afghanistan.

He praised how ordinary residents of the city stepped up to help during that time.

"They helped to organise clothing donation collections and various hobby opportunities for the refugees, for example," he said, adding that parishes will also work closely with the Finnish Red Cross to deal with possible arriving refugees.

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