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String of violent street assaults on asylum seekers, reception centre manager claims

The head of a reception centre in Lahti has claimed that between five and ten residents have been attacked by groups of Finnish men, some wielding baseball bats, during a two-week period. The local police say they have only received one report of such an incident.

Poliisi-kyltti auton katolla.
Image: Yle

The manager of a reception centre in Lahti has claimed that a number of residents have been attacked during a two-week spate of violent assaults against asylum seekers on the streets of Lahti.

The manager of Hennala reception centre in Lahti, Markku Heikkilä, said that between five and ten refugees have been assaulted on the street within a single two-week period. Heikkilä said that whereas refugees were previously able to walk around the town safely, a number of incidents have come to light recently where an asylum seeker has been punched and kicked by a group of Finnish men. The victims claimed the attackers also had baseball bats, Heikkilä said.

Reception centre staff have taken some of the victims, who suffered cuts and bruises, to hospital.

The incidents reportedly took place in the evenings or at night in the centre of Lahti or on the route to the reception centre, which is two kilometres out of town.

Only one police report

Detective Inspector Martti Hirvonen, from Häme police, said that so far they have only received one report of an attack on a resident at the centre that matches Heikkilä’s description. Police say they are looking into that case.

”We’ll see if this is a trend, as claimed, or just a one-off. We’re taking this seriously and will react vigorously if more cases come to light,” Hirvonen said.

This story was first reported by the newspaper Etelä Suomen Sanomat.

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