Experiencing the process of immigration first-hand

Tilu’s IB18 and IB17 history group took part in a project ‒ funded by the Bosch foundation ‒ called Castle Europe. The project’s purpose is to enlighten young European students on the concept of freedom of movement and what happens to freedom of movement if a nation decides to leave the EU. Freedom of movement is a very important issue in modern society as it is interlinked with the global immigration situation.

Suokki

In the Castle Europe project the island of Suomenlinna has become independent from Finland. The banner states: ”Welcome to the independent Suomenlinna”. Photo: Yuin Romah.

The Castle Europe process started when two representatives of the project came to our school to present the idea behind ”Castle Europe”. The presentation gave us an insight into the basics of political science and international relations. We discussed the meaning of borders and we were provided with some historical background to the concept of borders within Europe.

Passport

Immigration formalities before entering the ferry to Suomenlinna. The transportation to Suomenlinna was arranged from Hakaniemi because the normal ferry service from Kauppatori could not have handled hundreds of participants. Photo: Yuin Romah.

The next phase of the project took place in Suomenlinna and Hakaniemi. This part of the project consisted of a simulation of border control and its effects. In the simulation Suomenlinna had become independent from Finland and had set up a border security. Hence we had to fill out forms and were given passports. To make the process more realistic some passports were expired or otherwise faulty and some needed a special visa to be able to enter the ”country”. In order to get a new passport we had to wait longer and go through different steps and as for the visa we were made to travel ”illegally” since you could only get the visa done in Suomenlinna. This was done to illustrate that the bureaucracy handling immigration can and often does prove problematic to immigrants.

Bureaucracy

Some of those seeking entrance to Suomenlinna needed to apply for a visa, but some managed to get in with their EU passport and an arrival card. Photo: Yuin Romah.

After we had been stuck at the Hakaniemi ferry dock for an hour we finally got the green light to enter the ferry and start the trip to Suomenlinna. In Suomenlinna we were welcomed with the imaginary Suomenlinna national anthem but also with border security. After that we were given a tour of Suomenlinna and we got a pretty good picture of the history of Suomenlinna. Our tour guide also emphasized Suomenlinna’s history as a border fortification and the meaning of the massive walls of the fortress. After the tour all of the project’s participants including students from other schools were given a presentation by the Bosch foundation representatives but also by the Finnish Border Guard.

Boat

On the ferry to Suomenlinna from left to right: Topias Kuittinen, Oskari Mäenpää, Saimi Koskinen and Silja Latvala. Photo: Yuin Romah.

We thought that the project gave a better grasp of the immigration situation than any article or video could ever do. In the simulation we got to experience the immigration problem first-hand and also the struggle with the bureaucratic machine. The presentations gave us food for thought and provided meaning to the simulation in Suomenlinna. We were impressed and we definitely hope that these kind of projects will be seen in the future in Finland but also in other European countries, especially in the European countries that have strict immigration policies, for example Hungary.

Text: Topias Kuittinen, Yuin Romah and Oskari Mäenpää (IB18)
Photos: Yuin Romah

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