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Record rush at Pasila police station – situation to improve soon

Asylum-seekers queued for registration at the police station in Pasila, Helsinki in greater numbers than ever before on Monday. Police have increased their number of employees and volunteers handed out food and water to those awaiting their turn.

Pasilan poliisitalon edusta Helsingissä on turvapaikanhakijoiden täyttämä, kun he odottavat rekisteröitäväksi pääsyä. Vapaaehtoiset järjestävät odottajille ruokaa ja vettä.
Volunteers help with a rush of asylum-seekers in Pasila.

Monday afternoon saw a large gathering of people both inside and in front of the Pasila police station in Helsinki, near the Yle headquarters. The people were queuing to be registered as asylum-seekers while volunteers handed out fruits, biscuits and drinking water to those awaiting their turn.

Deputy police chief Ilkka Koskimäki says that the rush – unprecedented in its scale – has lead to the station increasing its number of employees and handling asylum requests in double shifts. Arabic language interpreters have also been on call throughout the day instead of being hired on an hourly basis.

"At best we have about 50 people working on nothing but these requests," Koskimäki says.

Asylum-seekers arriving from crisis zones have stretched officials thin over the past three weeks, with Monday being the busiest day in Pasila so far.

Even with expedition measures in place each asylum request takes about 45 minutes to be handled. Following this the asylum-seekers are also interviewed, which can take as long as four hours per person.

"New waiting rooms are being prepared in one of our buildings, but even so many people will unfortunately have to wait their turn outside," Koskimäki says.

Improvements coming

Women, children, the elderly and the poorly are having their cases handled first, ahead of the rest of those in need.

A group of volunteers also arrived at the Pasila station, having heard of the rush on social media. Many had food and water to distribute, while others doled out necessaries such as children's clothes.

"I wish some official body would organise itself so that aid of this immediate kind wouldn't fall to volunteers alone," says Mirka Seppälä, one of those helping the queuing asylum-seekers. "I'm empowered by this kind of work, it makes following the bleak news that much easier."

Officials promise an improvement to the chaotic situation in the next few days, as outdoor lavatories and benches will be provided soon.

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