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"Poor air quality" at Helsinki home for unaccompanied minor migrants

People who have visited a facility which is being turned into a group home for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers claim the air quality at the facility is poor. The owners of the property have acknowledged that further investigation is required.

Kuntokallio facility for unaccompanied minors Karhusaari
The Kuntokallio facility, located on the island of Karhusaari in eastern Helsinki. Image: Kari Hakli / Helsinki City Museum

One person who asked to remain anonymous told Yle’s Swedish language news service that after several visits to the Kuntokallio facility, the air quality provoked symptoms.

"Every time I've visited the centre, I noticed symptoms afterwards. I've had headaches, dry and irritated eyes, a swollen tongue, difficulty breathing and [caused] coughing. The last time I was there was a month ago," they told Yle.

The Kuntokallio facility is owned by the Vantaa Parish Union and located on the island of Karhusaari in eastern Helsinki.

"We are going to investigate"

Vantaa Parish Union's property manager Sari Turunen says that she has heard from people who've visited the facility complaining of symptoms.

"We have been contacted recently by people about the quality of the air at the facility, and that's why we have decided that we are going to do tests," Turunen says.

However, testing of the air quality requires temperatures below freezing she says, so they will be carried out at the beginning of January when it's colder.

Workers from two congregations have complained of symptoms and contacted Turunen, she says.

"People who get symptoms have usually been exposed to poor air before and they react to things that a healthy person doesn't otherwise," Turunen says.

Turunen says there was no information available whether there is the possibility of the presence of toxic mould at the facility.

Migrants move in next week

There have been earlier reports about the air quality at the facility, and Turunen says the parish carried out a study a decade ago.

The study planned for early next year will include all of the buildings at the course centre facility.

"The Deaconess Institute and the Immigration Service have been informed about the poor air quality and have visited the facility," Turunen says. "The conclusion was that it is safe."

The home for unaccompanied minors has room for 20 to 25 children. Those living there will all be under the age of 15.

Jarmo Kökkö, head of Helsinki's Deaconess Institute told Yle that he had the understanding that the air quality of the facility had been discussed but says he had not heard that the air was of poor quality.

"But it's good that an investigation will be done," Kökkö says.

When asked what would happen if one of the migrant children should began to show air quality-related symptoms, Kökkö says "then we must of course act and intervene in the situation."

The group home is scheduled to open during the first week of November.

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