Into The Woods
Ihab 27 and Yousuf 35 arrived in Finland in September 2015. like thousands of other people they crossed the Greek sea and then they walked up all the Balcan route. From there they crossed Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. They arrived in Finland after 20 days from leaving Turkey, looking for better future.
Ihab 27 arrived in Finland in September 2015. Like thousands of other people he crossed the Greek sea and then walked up all the Balcan route. He spent the last year and a half in Turkey, where he tried to apply for asylum without success. Ihab had to flee Baghdad in 2013 after he was life threatened at the magazine where only few months before he started to work. His family moved to India some time later, and is now applying for asylum there.
Yousef 35 years old is father of 5 kids and uncle of Ihab, he left Baghdad in 2015 just when his nephew organised the trip from Turkey to Greece.
Their trip is similar to the one of the hundreds of thousands of people that crossed the Aegean sea and half Europe to reach Austria, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Finland.
Velkua is the new home of Ihab and Yousef, a quiet and peaceful village of around 200 people, immerse in the Finnish nature.
Water and forests are all around. It’s one of those places where people go to "recharge their batteries" after a year of working.
Their new life in Finland started when they arrived in Turku, small city on the south west of the country. For few months they’ve been living in a refugee accommodation center with tens of other people mostly form Iraq and Afghanistan. In January 2016 Ihab heard about home accommodation offer from Outi, the coordinator of this service in the area.
Home accommodation is a temporary service provided by private citizens that offer some free space in their house to asylum seekers who desire to leave the state run centres. The service is free of charge and fully voluntary. Ihab and his uncle moved in Outi garage in January. Outi has been home accommodating asylum seekers since 2009.
Yousuf plays with Outi’s son. Yousuf have left his wife and five kids in Iraq and if his asylum request will be accepted he'll apply for reunification.
Ihab and Yousuf invited over a friend who they met during the months spent at the refugees centre. He's a hairdresser from Baghdad and arrived in Finland together with his wife and kid.
To keep himself active Yousuf started to practice some volleyball and every Monday he reaches the local team in a nearby island.
The two boys (how Outi calls them) keep their Iraqi food tradition. Finnish food is very far from their tastes indeed. In April 2016, to bond with the local community they organised an Iraqi themed lunch, preparing typical food for almost 50 people who've been really surprised by the great taste of the food.
Home accommodation is thought to be a more human way to host refugees during their first months in Finland. During this period of tine indeed asylum seekers face two interviews with MIGRI (the state run agency that deals with migrants) that will decide about their future. After the second interview there is a time of maximum six months in which the decision will be communicated.
Outi goes to the city almost every day so If Ihab and Yousuf need to go to the center she gives them a lift. Other than that there are only two busses per day to reach the city of Turku: one at 6.40am and one at 4.25pm to come back.
Ihab has been going through his second interview with the state run agency MIGRI, in charge of decide about his asylum request. He is often very stressed about the answer he'll receive. If the decision is negative there are good chances that he'll be deported to Iraq.
By the end of September 2016, Ihab and Yousuf, have been legally accepted in Finland.
They decided to leave the small village of Velkua and head to the former Finnish capital, Turku.
Ihab, decided to move together with is girlfriend Mintu, a finnish girl he met during his staying in the woods.
Yousef has been working very hard, preparing all the papers needed to allow is wife and his five kids to come to live in Finland.
Both Yousef and Ihab work with a temporary contract in a factory producing car parts 40km far from the city.
After receiving a positive answer about his asylum request, Ihab moved to Turku at the beginning of 2017.
Ihab and Minttu at home during a morning breakfast. They met when Ihab was still living in Velkua and after he got his asylum request accepted they decided to move together.
Ihab got in contact with Capoeira martial art few months after arriving in Finland. He immediately fell in love with it and kept practising as much as possible. Now, living in the city center is easier for him to attend the classes.
Ihab decided to take part to a Capoeira meeting with the participation of a Brazilian "maestre". People are always nice with him and he's never experienced any discrimination because of his nationality.
Because of his new work Ihab has to do everyday almost 100km to go and come back from work. Some weeks he has night shifts and reaching the working place is very difficult with public transportation. He's decided to buy a car but the prices are very high even for used car. He's already paying for the driving school that in Finland can easily end up costing up to 3000 euros.
2017 Finland. Ihab gets ready to start his work shift. The factory that employed him produces parts for Mercedes cars and has many immigrants among its employees.
When Ihab has night shifts there are very few moments to spend together. Minttu likes to prepare some breakfast for when Ihab will wake up.
Ihab is teaching Minttu how to prepare some Iraqi food as he still doesn't like "tasteless Finnish food". She discovered that actually she really likes Iraqi food especially the spices, some of them she'd never heard of.
At the beginning of June 2017 Yousuf finally received the confirmation that his request for reunification with his family has been accepted and they'll be arriving in Finland in few days.
On 20th June 2017 Yousuf reached the Helsinki airport. His family is arriving in few hours with a plane from Istanbul. They've spent the last few months in Turkey completing all the bureaucracy for family reunification at the Finnish embassy in the Turkish capital.
After 2 years spent apart, finally Yousuf meet again his family. The youngest daughter barely recognised him. She's born only few months before her dad left for Finland. They are all headed to Turku where they'll start their new life together.