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A father holding his son at the Citizens’ Square in Helsinki, Finland during a welcoming picnic for the refugees on September 12 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Here are the ingredients of a successful welcoming party: Joy. Music. Delicious falafel and about 3,000 people sitting and dancing at the Citizens’ Square in Helsinki and showing their support of welcoming the refugees to Finland and Europe. There were also other similar picnics arranged today in Oulu, Mikkeli, Joensuu and Tampere.

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The idea for the event arranged late on Saturday afternoon was sparked by the dramatic picture of the drowned Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, 3. Touched by the picture and while pondering if there was something she could do for the refugee crisis in Europe, Fatima Habeb came across a Facebook event, Europe Says Welcome. Because there wasn’t any equivalent to the event in Finland yet, she decided to create one.

A few other Finns, among others, Elina Hirvonen and Arto Sivonen, were also looking for if there was something they could put their hands on in order to welcome the refugees to Finland. They came across Habeb’s event, contacted her, and a group of volunteers started forming. Soon they had about 150 volunteers involved. Some Finnish companies were also interested and among others, Marimekko Elisa and Moomin Characters tagged along.

Soon, the arrangers had also put together an impressive list of performers. Finnish artists such as, Nicole Willis & Jimi Tenor, Scandinavian Music Group and Gracias made the people of many colours to shake it and get into the groove.

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I hadn’t seen so many smiling faces in a long time.

There were also various speakers on the stage. One the goals was to send a message to Petteri Orpo, the minister of the interior, who will attend an EU meeting for emergency talks on Europe’s escalating refugee crisis on September 14 in Brussels. The message of the arrangers is clear: “We want to show our solidarity and to demand sustainable, human-centred solutions to this global emergency.”

There was an elderly man, a refugee, who stepped on stage. He looked tired but there was clearly hope in his eyes.

“Thank you Finland. We promise to make Finland better and better,” he said and stepped off stage accompanied by cheers and applauds.


Sign language interpreters. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today



Attendees of the picnic holding banners. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today



A man holding a paper that says ‘Thank you Finland!” Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today



A father holding his son. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today



A woman eating alone. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


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