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Helsinki court overrules objections to home for underage asylum seekers in upscale Kauniainen

The Helsinki Administrative Court has ruled that a reception centre for underage asylum seekers can be set up in Kauniainen, a residential area in the capital region surrounded by the city of Espoo. Last autumn residents complained to the court about plans establish the group home in the tony district.

Kauniaisten vaakuna.
Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

In November last year, residents of Kauniainen expressed their displeasure over plans by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute to put up underage asylum seekers in a rental dwelling there.

Kauniainen, a small municipality surrounded by Espoo in the capital region is Finland's wealthiest municipality, and has the country’s lowest tax rate.

At the time, residents’ objections included claims that the building slated for the group home was too elegant to be used for the purpose of accommodating asylum seeker minors. They also argued that putting up the unaccompanied minors in such a swank building could give the youngsters the wrong impression about the daily lives of ordinary Finns.

Eight residents eventually signed their name to the court motion to block the charity organisation from setting up the facility. The home has since begun operations and accommodates a maximum of nine children at a time, in addition to one or two workers.

Clearance to lease for three years

However the Helsinki Administrative Court dismissed the resident’s objections on Thursday and ruled in favour of the Deaconess Institute. The outcome cleared the way for the charity to lease the property for three years to house the children.

In its decision, the Court said that the operation of a small-scale group home is in accordance with zoning rules for the area, and would not be harmful to the environs. It also noted that structural changes required to make it suitable for the intended purpose, such as emergency ladders would suit the environment.

The Court said that the Kauniainen construction committee has the authority to grant temporary building permits. However the complainants said that the matter should have been resolved by the city council.

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