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Asylum seeker reception centres prepare for Ramadan

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, asylum seeker reception centres must offer Muslim residents the possibility to observe Ramadan, which means fasting and only eating after sunset -- a challenge at this time of year when there are 21 hours of light a day. Ramadan starts Monday and lasts for a month.

Pakolaisia Evitskogissa Kirkkonummella.
Residents of Evitskog reception centre in Kirkkonummi. Image: Yle

At Kirkkonummi's Evitskog reception centre, staff have made preparations for Ramadan. In addition to preparing food at night, they are also ready for any potential conflict among residents, as half of the 300 male residents will observe Ramadan while the other half will not.

At Evitskog, 150 residents will not eat, drink or smoke while it is light out.

Staff have prepared minute-by-minute schedules for who eats when, as the men here are from 26 ethnic backgrounds and each has their own schedule regarding Ramadan.

"Someone can eat, for example, only between 22:33 and 02:26," says Evitskog's assistant director Pekka Sinisalo.

"In the past couple of weeks we have clarified who eats at what time in which culture. As a result, we have a long list that we can cross-check the information from," says Sinisalo.

According to Sinisalo, when midsummer arrives in three weeks time and there is 24 hours of light, those observing Ramadan will not stop eating all together. "The men will usually revert to their own ethnic background and fast by the time schedule in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, for example. "

The centre is also anticipating that residents may be irritable because they can't eat or drink for many hours. If fasting becomes medically strenuous, Evitskog does have a nurse on stand-by.

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