Demand for food banks has dramatically increased in recent months. One Helsinki organisation is to ask clients for ID to try and reduce numbers.
Heikki Hursti says that demand for his organisation’s food bank services has increased by 50 percent.
On one or two distribution days after Easter, clients will need to present a Finnish social security Kela card to receive help. Hursti says this is a one-time experiment, in order to see if numbers drop.
Hursti says the move is a response to rumours that Estonians are taking food from Finland and selling it in their home country.
"This is just an experiment, to see what happens," said Hursti, adding that he wanted to see where all the new people had come from all of a sudden.
He denied having any problem with immigrants, claiming he has many immigrant friends, and said that his organisation would continue to serve those with the right ID.
He also claimed that some refugee centres had asked him not to serve asylum seekers, as they are fed at their residential premises and have no cooking facilities.
Undocumented migrants to miss out
However Katja Tuominen of Vapaa liikkuvuus, a migrant advocacy organisation, told Yle News that many of those most in need do not have documents and would therefore be excluded by a Kela card requirement.
Roma people from eastern Europe were among those who Tuominen says could fall through the cracks, along with failed asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants.
She noted that while it was entirely possible that people were selling food obtained from food banks, Hursti could report that to the police and ask them to investigate rather than restricting access.
"If somebody steals a book from the library we do not destroy the library system," said Tuominen. "It seems like foreigners are being treated all the same."
- Yle, Egan Richardson