The first asylum seekers moved on Tuesday to the Konnunsuo reception centre in the Joutseno district of the city. One of the biggest differences to their previous accommodation at Tiuruniemi is the catering arrangements. Whereas before they bought and prepared their own food, now they will eat meals cooked in the Konnunsuo central kitchens.
“Food is provided by the house here, and it is eaten in the big canteen,” said Antti Jäppinen, the assistant director of the Joutseno reception centre, which is based at Konnunsuo. “This is a directive from the Finnish Immigration Service, behind it is the idea that this food provision model could be a good start for integration.”
Asylum seekers receive two warm meals a day at Konnunsuo, which is 22 kilometres from the centre of Lappeenranta in a rural area by the Russian border.
“We’ll see how dissatisfied customers are with this arrangement, some of them could be satisfied,” said Jäppinen.
Jäppinen suggested that criticism of the new catering arrangements stems partly from fear.
“I believe that behind this is a fear of new food,” said Jäppinen. “The menu has an ethnic tint, in any case, and for example there are fewer potatoes and more rice.”
Iraqi asylum seeker Paykar Osman Ahmed does not like the new system.
“The system is bad,” says Ahmed. “We eat special food. Your food is not good for us, and our food is not good for you.”
He would prefer to make his own food. Money is another factor: before he received 302 euros a month, whereas now his income is to be cut to 88 euros.
“In Tiuruniemi we were free, we got money and made our own food.”