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Refugee reception centre 'health hazard' for kids

Published tisdag 1 december 2015 kl 12.35
"We are in jail, we cannot go outside, we cannot take a shower"
(0:17 min)
Asylum seekers sleep on cardboard at Malmömässan. Photo: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.
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Asylum seekers sleep on cardboard at Malmömässan. Photo: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.
Malmömässans lokaler används som sovplatser för asylsökande. Foto: Josefin Modig/Sveriges Radio.
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The 5,000 sq m hall is being used as temporary accommodation while asylum seekers wait for a bus to take them to their new homes. Photo: Josefin Modig/Sveriges Radio.

The Migration Agency's reception centre for asylum seekers at the Malmö exhibition hall is a 'health hazard' for those forced to sleep there. That's the view of Save the Children, which is very concerned for the refugee children who are sleeping on concrete floors.

No showers, sick children sleeping on cardboard boxes on the floor, a shortage of toilets, lack of medical care and information, and not enough staff. The situation facing asylum seekers at Malmömässan, the exhibition hall by Hyllie train station, is causing concern for several charity organisations.

"We are in jail, we cannot go outside, we cannot take a shower, the toilets are dirty," says Abdullah from Syria, one of the thousands of refugees seeking asylum who come by train from Denmark and end up at the 5,000 square metre hall, which since mid-November, has become the first stop off point for people to register for asylum.

It's also Sweden's largest waiting room as the asylum seekers wait to be bussed off to their refugee accommodation in different areas of the country.

However, with accommodation at a premium, and close to a thousand people waiting to be registered, the process is slow, and people, many of them children, end up sleeping in the hall, for anything up to five days.

Abdullah, who is going to join his wife and two children in Jönköping, tells Swedish Radio News that he has been waiting for two days.

"We've been here two days and it will be a third tomorrow. I don't beleive I will go today. It's totally out of control," he says 

People are given food, but there are no beds or even matressses and they have to sleep on the concrete floor or makeshift cardboard boxes. Save the Children says that there are ten toilets to share between all of them, and no showers. The lack of hygiene is a cause for concern. And after the long journey from Syria and other countries, a lot of the children have colds, which are spreading under one roof.

Jenny Lundskog, from the Malmö district office of Save the Children, says the situation is a health hazard, particularly for the children.

"What we have seen has made us deeply concerned about the situation," she tells Swedish Radio's local channel in Malmö.

The Red Cross, which has around six people in place much of the day, seven days a week, paints the same picture.

"It is not a good environment for anyone, but it is definitely not a good environment for kids. You do not see daylight, the night light is on all the time. Such things are not good for anyone," says Lasse Lähnn, team leader for the Red Cross's refugee operations in Malmö, to news Agency TT.

The Migration Agency has responded to the criticism. Spokesperson Fredrik Bengtsson says to news Agency TT that they know the Environment is far from ideal.

"But if there are few places, the option is Malmömässan or no shelter at all, and in that context we have to choose between two very bad things at present," he says.

The reception centre was opened shortly after Sweden introduced border controls nearly three weeks ago. The aim was to speed up the registration process for refugees who were stopped at the borders. At present there are about 480 people staying in the hall, while around 1000 people remain in the waiting area during a day.

"In line with the fact that our accommodation places have run out, the hall has come to be used in a way that was not intended. You get to spend considerably more time than was the original idea. In some cases, one, a couple or three days," says Fredrik Bengtsson.
 
The Migration Agency hopes that a recently completed procurement of new accommodation, will result in a number of new places in the coming weeks.
 
TT: How will it look to places around Christmas?

"We don't know. It is day by day, sometimes hour by hour," says Fredrik Bengtsson.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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