Roma heading to Helsinki for showers

The opening of the new Roma day centre in Helsinki has attracted hundreds of new Roma gypsies, primarily from Bulgaria.

Officials from the new facility, situated in Paaskylanrinne, said that last Thursday alone saw 80 people stop in for a shower. Marjatta Vesalainen, a full-time worker at the centre, said that word of its opening had spread very quickly and Finland has seen a new influx of Roma, this time coming from Bulgaria.

The facility, backed by the City of Helsinki and the Deaconess Institute, is dubbed Hirundo (‘swallow’ in Latin). It was formerly a homeless service centre, and now opens its doors for several hours every day of the week so that the Eastern European immigrants can use washing machines, the internet, showers and more.

Amid the new surge of Bulgarian Roma, a few in the area have complained about the centre, as previously the city’s Roma went mainly to the Finnish Roma Kaalo day centre for services.

Workers say the new centre has opened as a result of growing tension between police and the city’s Roma population. Camping without permission is banned by the city and the Bulgarian Roma in particular claim they have been targeted with this rule.

Georgi Georgiev, a Bulgarian who has been living with a large group at a recently dismantled camp in Helsinki, said “We are discriminated against. The police only chase away the Bulgarians, but not the Romanians,” the Helsingin Sanomat reports.