A group of asylum seekers brought to stay at a former barracks in the Hennala district in Lahti Thursday evening were confronted by protesters carrying Finnish flags hurling fireworks and stones. One of them was dressed in the distinctive robes of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan movement. Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg described the events as an isolated incident.
Yle reports that a group of asylum seekers who were being transported to hastily-arranged accommodation at a former army barracks in Lahti’s Hennala district were met by a group of 30 – 40 individuals protesting the presence of the new arrivals.
The demonstrators chucked fireworks at the bus in which the asylum seekers were travelling, many of which exploded with a loud bang.
The bus contained some 49 people, the majority of whom were fleeing violence in Iraq. The group also included small children, as well as infants in arms, according to Yle’s reporter on the scene, Kirsti Pohjaväre.
Senior Constable Esa Mäkelä of the Lahti police department confirmed the number of demonstrators and said that two of them were fined for throwing fireworks.
As the bus approached the area where the barracks were located, Finnish Red Cross workers were on hand to guide the refugees to the reception centre.
Stones hurled at Finnish Red Cross workers
Yle reporters say the unrest in Hennala began roughly half an hour before the buses began to arrive, with protesters pelting rocks at the Red Cross workers as they took coffee to guards manning the gates of the complex.
However no one was injured during the stoning incident. On Friday morning three additional buses arrived on the scene. A total of 250 people are expected to arrive at the Hennala centre.
Earlier in the evening another Yle journalist, Heikki Ahonen, reported on the group, whom he said comprised mainly young men. Ahonen noted the presence of the Ku Klux Klan-clad individual and described the scene at the time as mostly calm. He also noted that officials had not intervened in the situation at that time.
In a separate incident in Kouvola Thursday night, police held a 50-year old man who threw a Molotov cocktail at an emergency shelter. No harm was done, as guards were able to put out the fire.