How would we classify Finland’s immigration and asylum policy? Thumbs up, or down?

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Just like President Donald Trump has destroyed the US’ standing in the world, what wreckage has Finland’s immigration and asylum policy brought on our society and our country’s name? 

Thanks to years of anti-immigration rhetoric and hardline policies by the former and present government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Finland has sunk into a dark hole where values like human rights and social equality are forfeited for cheap nationalism and by fortifying structural racism.

Finland’s immigration and asylum policy has a clear message to Muslims and non-EU citizens: Stay out!


Maria Lohela, former speaker of parliament and PS MP, is a good example of how racism has become a part of our institutions. She got elected with her Islamophobic rhetoric. She is today part of the Blue Reform block. Source: YLE.

Just like the media in the United States is fighting tooth and nail to expose the corruption, racism and kakistocracy of Trump’s administration, the media in Finland has an important job as well to make sure that parties like the Perussuomalaiaset* and their allies in parliament and elsewhere, don’t take Finland for a ride as happened before the 2011 parliamentary elections.

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A message from Ali, who was deported to Kabul, Afghanistan, from Finland

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A thirty-year-old  Afghan asylum seeker who was deported from Finland three months ago got in touch with me Thursday morning. His messages on Messenger were simple but behind them were evident uncertainty and anxiety. We spoke in Finnish by phone later in the afternoon. Ali had learned a lot of Finnish in the two and a half years he waited unsuccessfully for a residence permit. 

Ali said that even if he considers himself an Afghan, he had never been to Afghanistan until he was deported to that country.

“I don’t have anyone here,” he continued. “I was born and raised in Iran. I don’t have any work, money or family [in Afghanistan].”


I told him that I heard he was deported to Afghanistan.

Ali said that he hopes to move back to Iran but this is difficult since he doesn’t have the financial means.

“I don’t wander outside the home in Kabul after 8 pm because it is dangerous,” he said. “There have been a lot of bombings and killings in Kabul.”

The bad and good news after Sweden’s 2018 parliamentary elections

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There is good and bad news after Sunday’s parliamentary elections. The bad news is that the far-right Sweden Democrat saw its support rise by 4.7 percentage points to 17.6% compared with the elections in 2014, according to Svenska Dagbladet. The good news – if it can be considered as such – is that the result was well below expectations. 

Writes The Local: “But the pre-election polls had clearly got into their [Sweden Democrats] heads: YouGov had them polling at 25 percent and becoming Sweden’s biggest party – the same YouGov that got the party right last time. Other pollsters said they’d adapted their methods and were better equipped this time to gauge the SD vote, with Ipsos and Demoskop for example putting them around the 18-19 percent mark. But who could really tell?”


Read the full story (in Swedish) here.

Certainly, Sunday’s election result will make Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s job difficult in forming a new government. The present situation may mean the Social Democrats forming a government with a right-wing party that would exclude the Sweden Democrats.

The fact that the Sweden Democrats became the country’s third-largest party – not second-largest, according to some polls – and that migration and crime took the front seat of the political debate, reveals something disturbing about the Nordic countries. Norway, Finland, and Denmark, whose far-right Danish People’s Party does not form government but supports it, all have seen the rise of the populist anti-immigration parties.

How is it possible that Nordic countries, which profess being the most liberal and which base their social policy on equality could be so xenophobic and Islamophobic?

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(Migrant Tales 12.2.2017): Dear Sweden, don’t play ball with the Sweden Democrats – Finland is the best example of the disaster that awaits you

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Dear Sweden, 

In all of the Nordic region, we have seen far-right populist parties rise in this century with a hostile even vicious anti-immigration and anti-cultural diversity agenda. Of all the Nordic countries, you are the only one in the Nordic region where populist anti-immigration parties have not formed directly or indirectly a part of government. 

A poll in November, however, showed a sharp rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats to 21.5% when compared with 12.9% it got in the 2014 parliamentary elections and not trailing too far behind the Social Democratic Party (25.7%) and Moderates (22%).

The Sweden Democrats are the third largest party today in the 349-seat Riksdagen (parliament) with 49 seats (12.9%) in 2014 compared with 20 seats (5.7%) they won in 2010.

In an analysis piece by Expo, an anti-racism and anti-fascism NGO in Sweden, they explained the rise of the Sweden Democrats in 2010 to the Riksdagen in the following words:

“The Sweden Democrats gain from presenting themselves as an alternative to the so-called establishment,” wrote Expo chairman Daniel Poohl. “The bloc politics that has marked the election campaign has turned the Sweden Democrats into a distinct third alternative, an underdog.”

Poohl continues to warn us in 2016 about the Sweden Democrats: “That’s where we come in. This is the white paper [stating that they aren’t a racist party and have no ties to fascism] that the Sweden Democrats would have to do, but will never be able to write. The racism found in the Sweden Democrats isn’t something that belongs to history but is a part of the party’s concept.”

Migrant Tales wrote the following letter to Sweden in june 2015 warning about the perils of playing ball with a populist party that loathes immigrants:

“Today, you, dear friend in Sweden, are the only country that can restore sanity to this part of Europe and effectively challenge this force that is undermining and threatening our Nordic values. We need you to hold out and show leadership, which has been shamefully lacking in the rest of our region.”

 

Read the full story here.

However, it looks like there is a tear in the cordon sanitaire that excluded the Sweden Democrats from Swedish mainstream politics. Anna Kingberg, the head of the Moderates, said that her right-wing conservative party would be ready to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats, according to Politico.

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Sweden’s parliamentary elections expose the country’s issues with racist exceptionalism

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Sweden heads for the polls on Sunday to elect 349 seats to the Riksdag (parliament). Despite the good showing in the polls of the far-right Sweden Democrats, which has roots in the neo-Nazi movement, is slated to capture 20% of the votes.

The rise in popularity of the Sweden Democrats has been fast and a reminder that Sweden continues to have serious unresolved issues with racism. 

The Sweden Democrats entered the Riksdag in 2010 for the first time with 20 MPs (5.7%), and four years later they more than doubled the number of MPs to 49 (12.9%). 

Contrary to other Nordic countries like Norway, Denmark, and Finland, Sweden has refused to cooperate with anti-immigration parties. There are some signs that this may change with parties like the conservative Moderates offering an olive branch last year to the Sweden Democrats. 

Since Finland is a close neighbor to Sweden, a good showing by the Sweden Democrats in Sunday’s election could boost the populist anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset.* Finland has parliamentary elections in April 2019. 

The parliamentary elections of September 9 are exposing Sweden’s dark side. Source: The Local.

The interesting question to ask with respect to the rising popularity of the Sweden Democrats, and ever-growing xenophobia in what is probably one of Europe’s liberal countries, why are we in this political bind? 

Many factors are at play. One of these is Swedish exceptionalism, which portrays a myth of a white near-perfect society until migrants arrived and ruined it all.

What surprises me a lot is how migrants are being singled out as “the problem” and “cause” of Sweden’s problems. How many politicians are asking how the dismantling of the social welfare state, rising discrimination, social exclusion and the lack of political will to tackle these social ills are at the heart of the problem?

Scapegoating migrants for Sweden’s woes is punching below the belt and turning one’s back on the country’s more serious problems like social inequality. 

Even if there are some troubling question marks of US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and that his administration deported 2.5 million people, or more than any other president in US history, he does have a point in the following quote:

“Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security would be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t sound like us, or don’t pray like we do – that is an old playbook, it’s old as time.”

Sunday’s election result in Sweden will reveal a lot of ugly things about the country that we knew but which politicians rarely acknowledged. One of them is racism, social inequality, and exclusion. 

Despite assurances by Nordic countries of social equality, each country in northern Europe has seen the rise of hostile anti-immigration parties that target migrants and minorities. Apart from Sweden, such parties share power in government in Norway (Progress Party), in Denmark (Danish People’s Party), and in Finland (Perussuomalaiset, today Blue Reform). 

All of these populist parties miss the mark by a long shot because migrants and minorities are not the main cause of these countries’ woes. 

* The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity. One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

Finland’s speaker of parliament stokes the white Christian flames of “us” and “them”

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Conservative National Coalition Party speaker of parliament, Paula Risikko, was quoted as saying in Senäjoki-based daily Ilkka that she is concerned about the role of Christians in Finland.

“Was it easier before to be religious,” she was quoted as asking in Keskisuomalainen. “For example, it’s not as easy today to bring one’s religious views at work. Christians are being pushed in a closet at the same time when other [religions] are coming out of the closet.”

From giving the thumbs up to far-right demonstrators, expressing ignorance that Finns are not only white, and her tough stand on asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, which she calls illegal immigrants and spreads fear, Risikko’s conservative views continue to insult minorities in this country.

Behind that smile and her Marimekko shirt, lies a sinister ideology that sees migrants, especially Muslims, as a threat to Finland. Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

Certainly one reason for Risikko’s latest comment is the parliamentary elections of April 14, 2019, and the EU elections the following month. Does Risikko believe that stoking the flames of “us” and “them” will give short-term political gains?

Do her comments target Muslims and other minorities? Does it reveal her white fragility? Or are they a glimpse of how politicians in Finland continue to lurch towards cheap nationalism with the help of “us” and “them?”

All of the above stain Risikko. 

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä fuels Finland’s hostile environment for migrants

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While I was not surprised by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s comments about migration and the rise of the far right in YLE’s Ykkösaamu talk show, the interview offers a good example of how his government continues to fuel Finland’s hostile environment for migrants. 

According to Adrian Berry, a leading UK immigration lawyer, defined in in The Guardian, the term hostile environment: “It is a series of legislative initiatives to make it much more difficult to lead an ordinary life in the UK, but secondly, a change in direction in the way the Home Office assesses individual people.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is considered the brainchild of the UK’s hostile environment. 

This definition by Berry offers us the opportunity to assess the hostile environment for migrants in Finland.  In the same manner, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government has tightened immigration laws which in turn has changed radically the way Finland assesses people from certain countries, especially Muslims from Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Anti-immigration rhetoric and mistrust have made the lives of migrants and minorities more difficult because they encourage social ills like racism and discrimination. 

Sipilä’s comments in YLE’s Ykkössmu talk show how much in the dark the prime minister- Blaming the riots in Chemnitz on “uncontrolled immigration” is sticking one’s head in the sand. 

The reason why Sipilä invested few words in the show on the threat of the far right in Europe is either because he is in denial or ignorant of the problem in a European historical context. Remember the slippery slope that led to Nazi Germany’s final solution?

A recent editorial in The Guardian wrote the following about the demonstrations in Chemnitz: “It is disturbing to see a far-right mob rampage through the streets of any city but, for obvious historical reasons, the scene is uniquely distressing in Germany.” 

OK, you don’t believe in the liberal media. Let’s look at what Spiegel Online of Germany wrote: “In Chemnitz, refugees find themselves under threat by neo-Nazis and hooligans. Politicians have pledged to take a hard line against right-wing extremist violence, but they look helpless nonetheless. Meanwhile, the right wing seems to have the upper hand in Saxony.”

Veikka Lahtinen tweets: “When the prime minister explains that “uncontrolled immigration” is the cause for the racist demonstrations in Germany,  you can guess that [parliamentary and EU elections] are less than a year off, and that in Finland the only center-right response to the extreme right is to use the same language.” 

What does the conservative Financial Times write? 

“Chemnitz, Saxony’s third-biggest city, has become a symbol of the relentless rise of the hard right in Germany. At a series of demonstrations this week, young men in black hoodies changed ‘Germany for the Germans’ and ‘Foreigners Out.’ A country that thought it had long ago laid Nazism to rest was confronted with its ugly rebirth.”

Prime Minister Sipilä’s interview revealed how much of a bubble – like the EU – the prime minister inhabits. Sipilä actually believes that by raising the number of quota refugees from 750 to 1,500 will help alleviate the so-called immigration crisis.

What Sipilä conveniently forgot to offer are the solutions to stop people from migrating to Europe from regions like Africa. Without even offering a shred of evidence, he suggested too many of them were economic migrants. 

As a Latin American, and after so much meddling in our politics and economy by Washington, my family decided to migrate to the United States because there wasn’t a bright enough future in Argentina.

If you have not solved the “migration problem” up to now, it is only a pipedream to believe it will be solved in the near future. Matters will only get worse. 

Prime Minister Sipilä’s comments reinforce how much in the dar he and his government is on immigration and a slew of other issues.