Migrant Tales and ten years of anti-racism activism 2007 – 2017

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I never believed when I published my first posting in Migrant Tales that I’d be writing about our tenth anniversary today. The journey from that Wednesday a decade ago to today has been a long one helped by the fuel of support that Migrant Tales has received during these years.  

Migrant Tales not only defends the rights of migrants and minorities in Finland and elsewhere, but human rights and Nordic values like social equality as well.

During the last ten years, Europe and Finland, have regressed instead of advanced when it comes to migrant and minority rights. While this is clear to us and to many other people, too many don’t see racism and discrimination as a threat to our societies.

Migrant Tales has never doubted the threat that populism and parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* pose for Finland. It is the same story for other ones in Europe like the Danish People’s Party, Sweden Democrats, Front National of France, UKIP and others, which capitalize on racism.

All of the above parties pose a threat to our democracies in Europe. Believing otherwise is wishful thinking. Since such parties need to scapegoat minorities they must always single out a victim. If they succeeded at eliminating one group they’d go for another.

It’s a cycle of hate that never ends because in scapegoating there is power, wealth and fame.

Migrant Tales has throughout the years taken up a lot of causes for migrant and minority rights. This picture was taken last year in front of the Little Parliament protesting Finland’s asylum and deportation policies. In May we exposed the mistreatment of asylum seekers at the Kolari reception center that led to the sacking of the deputy manager, Jari Sillantie.

The fact that we still exist after ten years proves that there is a big demand for voices to speak out and defend those that are heard faintly by society. We are honored to be one of the many voices that are speaking out for migrant and minority rights.

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The Finnish League for Human Rights: Is Finland in need of hate crimes prevention law?

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Hate crimes affect members of minority groups all over the world. Some countries take it more seriously than others by passing and enacting hate crime prevention laws, and by investigating suspected cases and prosecuting perpetrators so as to deliver justice to victims. The number of suspected hate crimes registered by Finnish police have increased more than fifty per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Every year since 2008 Finland’s Police University College publishes a report on hate crime based on data of suspected hate crimes reported to the police. The report provides insights into the state of hate crimes in the country. Currently, the Finnish penal code does not define hate crime or racist crime. However, since 2011 the racist motive has been an increasing ground for punishments. Hate motives such as race, skin color, religion or sexual orientation are taken into consideration by courts during sentencing, and they may lead to an enhanced penalty. However, it appears that the police, prosecutors and judges have challenges in recognizing the potential hate motive in the crime process.


Read the full story here.

Current legal measures may not be enough

A total of 1250 suspected cases of hate crimes were brought to the attention of the police in 2015, according to police data. Compared to the previous year the figure represents a 52 percent increase in suspected hate crimes. Majority of suspected cases in 2015 had racist features based on ethnicity and national background.

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Avelino* wasn’t the first undocumented migrant I had met in Finland

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I got an email from a Migrant Tales reader who told me about Avelino*, a middle-aged Filipino who was working in Finland but who got deported last year with his two children.  He wasn’t the first undocumented migrant I had met in Finland. The first one I met was a Mexican cook in the 1980s who was working for a restaurant called Mexicana in Helsinki.

Avelino is a software engineer with 25 years experience in his field who worked for a Finnish company in Indonesia before moving to the country. He got a residence permit in 2011. His daughter and son, who were at the time 16 and 15 years old, respectively, moved to Finland later on.

The Filipino and his two children became undocumented migrant by overstaying their residence permits.

Avelino has worked in a number of countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and in the Philippines during his long career.

The Filipino blamed his family’s deportation on the “migration crisis,” when many thousands of Iraqis and Afghans came to Finland in the fall and winter of 2015 and 2016. “If so many Muslims wouldn’t have come to Europe,” he explained, “I would have been able to stay in Finland.”

Avelino considered it unfair that he, who came to Finland legally, is forced to leave the country.

“They [asylum seekers] came here illegally [sic] and we moved here legally,” he said. “We paid taxes and they get everything [for free].”

He considered himself and his two teenage children to be  “collateral damage” of the migration “crisis” that swept Europe from 2015.

“Humanity does not only apply to Muslims but to us as well,” he added.

On top of the difficulties of keeping himself financially afloat and simultaneously trying to find employment, the ultimate blow came when the Espoo police service made his family feel as if they were criminals when they were escorted to board the plane to the Philippines from the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.


Avelino in the end of 2016 in Helsinki just a few days before he was deported from Finland. Photo: Enrique Tessieri.

Avelino has suffered a number of setbacks in Finland and tried his hardest to stay in the country. The first one came in 2013, when he and his two children contracted tuberculosis.

“I lost my job and was one month in confinement and treated for seven months for tuberculosis,” he explained. “I was given social aid and allowed to stay in Finland with a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.”

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(Announcement) 2017 Summer School Migration in Southern Europe: Solidarity, Crisis and Beyond

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This seven-day course “Migration in Southern Europe: Solidarity, Crisis and Beyond” will investigate the developments, challenges and the impact of the migration and refugee crisis on southern European societies and on migrant populations. It will also explore the prospects for improving the current management of issues and relevant social policies.

In conjunction with the lectures and seminars, the program includes a full-day of study visits to facilities and organizations in the Attica region that receive and support refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. Athens provides an ultimate setting for carrying out this program, as it comprises the main city of temporary or permanent stay for immigrants and refugees in Greece, and offers a unique environment that facilitates participants’ deeper engagement with the issues at hand.

To Whom it is Addressed

As this program is interdisciplinary in nature, it is open to all disciplines (such as Sociology, Social Policy, International Relations, Human Rights, Economics et al.) and applicants are welcome from the undergraduate level of studies and up, including but not limited to postgraduate students, PhD candidates, researchers, NGOs professionals. Doctoral students and researchers will have the opportunity to present their PhD/research at the PhD Seminar.

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Exploiting asylum seekers in the Finnish labor market reveals our failed asylum and integration policy

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Migrant Tales has written a number of stories showing how Finland’s asylum policy and treatment of about 38,000 asylum seekers that came to the country during 2015-16 has been costly and ineffective. The government claims differently for obvious reasons.  

If the treatment of asylum seekers and the policies that guide it were put under rigorous scrutiny we’d be shocked by many things.

Disagree? Tell me then how spending hundreds of millions of euros to keep people passively in asylum reception centers indefinitely reveals efficiency and a humane asylum policy?

On Friday we learn from a story published by YLE News that over a year and a half after asylum seekers tarted to come to Europe in large numbers that these are victims of exploitation and working for free.

What is even more surprising is that one inspector uncovers such a phenomenon.

Why is the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland now “shocked” by such exploitation of asylum seekers?

The Regional State Administrative Agency of South Finland worker protection inspector Katja-Pia Jenu was surprised by what she had uncovered at a restaurant in Lahti, which had working for them asylum seekers for no pay, according to YLE News.

“The fact that the restaurant’s operation was based entirely on free labour was pretty shocking,” she said.

If the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland has now opened its eyes to the situation, one could correctly ask why haven’t the unions and politicians spoken out against such unfair practices? Why hasn’t the Finnish media brought this to public light as well?

The answer is pretty simple: Asylum seekers have been demonized by the government, politicians and the media and therefore there is little interest about their plight in Finland.

This recent case is a case in point.

 

Read the full story here.

Migrant Tales has written about how susceptible asylum seekers, never mind certain migrant groups, are to exploitation by greedy employers.

We recently reported in April about a Porvoo-based company called A-T Puhdistus that paid its workers in black. In  2016, we asked in another story if Barona’s fast-track employment scheme for asylum seekers was a joke.

In a country where racialization is the rule rather than the exception in the Finnish labor market, the authorities appear disinterested in addressing problems in the labor market.

According to the European Network Against Racism’s (ENAR) 2015-2016 shadow report, certain professions in Finland such as cleaners, cooks and waters attract only foreigners because the wages they pay are unacceptable to white Finns.

Pekka Myrskylä substantiates the latter. The Statistics Finland researcher claimed in 2014 that there is a 25% wage disparity between white Finns and migrants. The gap becomes even bigger when we look at unemployment benefits, where there are up to 59% disparities.

Certainly if Migrant Tales knows about these cases why don’t the authorities?

 

 

 

 

Sampo Terho’s and Jussi Hallo’s political calling to keep Finland white

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Watching the A-studio debate between Sampo Terho and Jussi Halla-aho, the two candidates vying for the leadership of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, was a good example of how low Finland has stooped as a nation.

These two politicians, which have made good careers with the help of social media by spreading hatred, mistrust and hostility towards certain ethnic and religious groups in Finland, parroted their hardline stances on an even tougher immigration policy for the country.

It does seem incredible that a nation like Finland, which claims to be a Nordic welfare state built on social equality, has representatives of a government party speaking of asylum seekers, migrants and cultural diversity as if it were political canon fodder to secure their own political careers and that of the party’s.


 
Watch full debate here.

Terho mentioned that the most important issues facing Finland was the “crisis” brought on by asylum seekers and slow economic growth. Halla-aho was no different: He was worried about EU federalism, immigration and entrepreneurship.

The message of both politicians is clear: Let’s keep Finland white.

Both of them went on record saying that all asylum seekers should be put in detention centers like in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, make Finland officially a monolingual country at the cost of Swedish, and close the borders to asylum seekers even if it meant breaching international agreements.

If these two politicians were able to lead Finland, it wouldn’t take long for it to join the same club as Hungary and Poland, where basic civil rights are being challenged.


The official translation to Finnish of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party is the Finns Party. In our opinion, it is not only a horrible translation, but one that is misguided. A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Such terms like the Finns Party of True Finns promote as well 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 thereafter the acronym PS.

360° Finland: Truth bubbles, polarization and one-size fits all globalization

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Many people ask nowadays: ”Why don’t we agree on anything anymore?” My answer is: look at the structures!

Truth bubbles

“Truth bubbles” can be characterized as the contemporary “folk disease”.Fingers have been pointed at the algorithms of social media companies such as Facebook for filtering information based on likes in a way that is conducive to creating and enforcing them. Social-media users would see only things they wanted to see in their newsfeed and follow the narratives they already supported. While prejudicial filtering of information is how human cognition functions, and is not alarming in itself, Facebook truth bubbles bring that filtering to the next level. It minimizes the chances that we encounter contradicting information accidentally.


Read the original posting here.

Some analysts claimed that truth bubbles worked in favor of Trump in the 2016 US presidential elections. Trump’s supporters would only see news in their feed that casted his alt-right agenda in a positive light. Some news agencies have exploited the mechanism for maximizing their profits by publishing tailored news articles for different truth bubbles. If you wonder how this works, the same piece of news is published for liberals and conservatives; just some keywords are altered to suit the taste of the target audience. Perhaps even more worryingly, truth bubbles decrease the likelihood that people with opposing views exchange ideas and learn from each other.

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How the Finnish government, institutions and President Sauli Niinistö pander to anti-immigration sentiment and groups

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Just the way Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government can give a tacit pat on the back to far-right groups like Suomi Ensin (Finland First), the police give the green light to extremist  vigilante groups, or President Sauli Niinistö give the thumbs up to the Finnish version of the Okie from Muskogee, all of them if they wanted could land a big blow to such racist groups by stating that they are unacceptable and out of touch with our Nordic values. 

Too much complacency and mixed signals from government officials and the president of Finland only feed the ogre and the trolls.

The recent French presidential election was a positive example of how to challenge racism spread by far-right politicians.


Read the full story here.

Emmanuel Macron did not hide his views of Marine Le Pen. He accused her in a national debate of “feeding off” French people’s unhappiness and called her a “parasite” by manipulating voters’ anger usually against minorities and Muslims.

We’ve seen it over and over again. If you are too complacent and try to compete with far-right anti-immigration parties by stealing their rhetoric  you are going to lose. Why would a voter vote for a copy if he or she can get the real thing?

Thus the only way to challenge the onslaught of populist anti-cultural diversity rhetoric polluting Europe these days is by facing it and challenging it head on with little diplomacy, if necessary.

Finland is less of a sad example today of how traditional parties like the Social Democrats tried to use the populist rhetoric of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* before the April 2011 election. Add to the latter a national media that couldn’t tell the difference between racism and its own Nordic Western values and the historic victory of the PS was sealed.

It has taken us in Finland over five years of PS rhetoric and populist arguments since 2011 to understand that the party is nothing but a smokescreen for our own prejudices and racism.

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