The volunteer-run clinic has been open for six months, consulting walk-ins once a week for a few hours at a time. The majority of volunteers are young physicians, though nurses and retired doctors also lend their time.
Those residing in Finland illegally do not have a Finnish social security number—a prerequisite for any visit to a public healthcare centre. The clinic’s doctors say patients are from all walks of life.
Government officials have argued that Finland is not home to illegal immigrants—but the clinic’s customers tell a different story, according to Heikki Pälve of the Finnish Medical Association.
“Roma from Bulgaria and Romania make up the single largest group,” says the clinic’s founder Pekka Tuomola of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute.
The bare-bones clinic struggles to maintain basic medical supplies, which customers are often unable to pay for.
Pälve points out that it makes sense to treat undocumented workers from a public health standpoint to avoid the spread of contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Tuomola says walk-ins with serious conditions have been referred to Haartman Hospital’s Emergency Department in Helsinki, where they have received care.
According to police, some 4,000 undocumented migrants live in Finland, though exact figures are difficult to ascertain.