So now we know of the place where Finnish intelligence agents hang out…
I’m for keeping it open just for that reason alone (/sarc off). If having a kebab stand around the corner is the symbol of multiculturalism’s successes, give me opposite any day of the week. This story pimped by YLE is actually a thinly disguised plea for big business and the state (taxpayers) to fund the refurbishing of a low rental facility that’s on its way out.
Puhos: Take a look around a corner of multicultural Finland under threat
The Puhos centre offers a chance to buy many of the products and services that can be difficult to find elsewhere in Finland—but now it’s under threat. The current lease on the plot runs out in 2020, and before then the current tenants must agree on how to renovate the ageing premises.
If rents jump, the small businesses serving Somali, Turkish and other communities might have to leave. If they don’t, other tenants of the municipality might kick up a fuss.
There’s no unanimity on the best way forward, with the four biggest owners of the centre (Kesko, Hok-Elanto, Sponda and Ilmarinen) joined by more than 30 small shareholder businesses, most owned by people with an immigrant background.
You can take a look around the centre, and hear some of the contrasting views on its future, in our interactive 3D model produced in conjunction with Aalto University. Scroll through the model and click on each person marked with a number to hear their interview.
Hear are some of the stories we’ve heard while putting together the story.
Space for Somalis
“Imagine what happens if 20 Somalis go to a restaurant or cafe and chat loudly, where Finnish people are there to relax, eat and have fun,” Shurie Mohamed said while drinking coffee in a crowded Somali cafe.
“I think Puhos is a stress free zone and healthy place for some of the people,” Shurie added.
From Hawalas or Money transfer companies to Halal meats, from clothes stores to cafes, Puhos is multicultural market that sprang up after Somalis opened a small mosque in 1996
The mosque was followed by small businesses, transforming the whole centre into an area where many cultures are represented.
According to Shurie, in the early 1990s, people used to come together at restaurants near the railway station. The would arrive in groups of 10 or 15 at the restaurants or cafes and start shouting or talking loudly, which is the norm in some cultures, but unfortunately can annoy some Finns.
In some instances police suspected people with immigrant background standing around at the central railway station up to no good.
“Because they were standing at the railway station similar to how they are standing here, which the police might suspect that they are selling drugs!” Shurie Mohamed said in an interview.
One of the biggest factors attracting foreigners to have shops at the Puhos is the affordable rent at the shops at the area.
Sabah Abdulkadir is a 35 year Somali-Danish entrepreneur who set up an Islamic fashion online in 2012. She recently opened her shop at Puhos, where the price is right and the target market is well-represented.
“Puhos is a unique multicultural place and its rent is cheap,” Sabah Abdulkadir said. “You don’t have to pay for online ads any more.”
Playtime for children
Some of the customers embraced Puhos for its availability of Halal meat and foods and most recently a place where children can play.
Lamin Jawara, 47 year old Gambian father who moved to Finland after his family moved, says that he comes to Puhos most of the time to meet colleagues and for shopping, and sometimes to bring his kids to play area.
“I come most of my time here to meet some friends and discuss issues,” Lamin Jawara said. “As a Muslim, I come to buy Halal meat and foods.”
“We have cheap phones to contact family back and Hawalas to help send money to families back home,” Lamin added.
According to Lamin, other Gambians are planning to open shops at Puhos in the future.
Besides the benefits, Puhos has its own side effects when it comes to integration. In Ringby in Sweden, it’s been claimed that some immigrants who arrived in the 1990s still don’t know the Swedish language, because there is no need for it because shops, restaurants and other related business are owned by Somalis.
Somali people work at the Swedish social and if they want to be helped with forms they go and they are being assisted and they do not go beyong Rinkeby and some Somalis say a similar scenerio is possible at Puhos.
“They come here, being assisted with the filling of the forms and that he/she later puts the papers in the post, and thus hinders the person’s ability to integrate,” Shurie Mohamed stated. “Somalis are interested in other Somalis, even we don’t go, chat and have tea at the Arab cafes.”
“Arabs also go to their own cafes and Turks go to the Turkish cafes,” he added highlighting how immigrants are connected into groups in line with their respective countries.