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Helsinki police empty Roma camp

Police on Tuesday closed an unauthorised camping area on the grounds of the Satama Social Centre in Helsinki occupied by eastern European Roma. The demolition of a building at the site began on Tuesday.

Poliisi tyhjentää Kalasataman romanileiriä Helsingissä.
Image: YLE

The operation was initiated by the City of Helsinki that owns the property and had earlier ordered the campers to evacuate the area.

Although some police taking part were in riot gear, the eviction was carried out without incident.

"We did not give precise advance information about the eviction because of the possible threat of anarchy, not by the Roma, but by activists," Helsinki Police Inspector Ismo Juvonen told YLE

The occupants of the unauthorised camp have been urged to move to accommodations run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute. They have also been provided with embassy contact information.

The City has pressed for the evacuation of the camp site as the building occupied by the Satama Social Centre is scheduled for demolition. The work is to be completed by the end of October.

Activists critical

The Free Movement Network, a group opposed to strict migration controls, has been critical of Helsinki's eviction of Roma from unauthorised sites. The group claims that the manner of the eviction was inhumane, as there were no interpreters present at the time, and the camp residents were only given a few hours to pack their belongings and leave the area.

"The eviction is a continuation of a completely unrealistic and anti-Roma policy that the city has implemented throughout the summer," said Markus Himanen of the Free Movement Network. "People move in search of a livelihood, not a place to live, but all people need shelter."

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