The treatment of an ever-growing problem like undocumented immigrants in Finland by the media and politicians resembles a debate where nobody really wants to tackle the issue. Our attention too often shifts to the undocumented immigrant, who is seen as the culprit and root of the problem.
The ongoing debate resembles discussing the reasons behind prostitution. Is is the woman’s fault for offering sex or the customer’s who buys such services from her? Who is to blame: demand, supply, or both?
Another problem with the debate on undocumented workers in Finland and Europe is terminology. The media and the rest of the public use a dehumanizing slur like “illegal.” Calling a human “illegal” is wrong and not only permits the employer to wash his hands of the problem, but is disrespectful. It opens the door to ethnic profiling and victimization of groups like immigrants.
If we take an extreme case like the United States, where there are an estimated 11-12 million undocumented workers, the answer why this type of activity takes place is clear: Businesses and the economy benefit immensely from undocumented workers.
As long as there are clear economic benefits for employers and the economy to hire undocumented workers, it’s wishful thinking that the issue will magically disappear. Moreover, our attention should shift to the real culprit, the employer, rather than victimize undocumented workers.
Certainly undocumented workers are part of the problem but not in the same degree as employers, who have more resources and choices open to them than undocumented immigrants.
The first time I knew of an undocumented worker in Finland was in the 1980s. He worked for a restaurant called Mexicana in Helsinki. The cook, a Mexican, complained about low wages, long hours and how he had to sleep at the restaurant.
Whatever your view of this serious problem, a good and effective way to begin understanding and tackling it is by asking why this type of activity happens too often right under our noses.