Finland’s lost decade and how asylum seekers exposed our hypocrisy and cowardice

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The recent example of civil disobedience by Aino Pennanen, when on a Finnair flight Tuesday she attempted to stop a deportation of an asylum seeker. In a country like Finland, where civil disobedience is almost unheard of today, Penanen’s example speaks volumes about how some Finns have lost the trust of their government never mind the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

Just like the Perussuomalaiset and Blue Reform parties together with the National Coalition Party and Center Party have brought us a lost decade by flirting and promoting racism and polarization of society, future historians and students of Finnish society will study this decade as one of its low and shameful points.

Even so, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government turns out a steady stream of rehearsed denials while showing its contempt for the most vulnerable sectors of our society.

Contrary to a military battle, which is won by physical force, an ideological battle can never be won. Even if fascism looked buried deep in the grave a few decades ago, it is lifting today its ogre-like face with a vengeance. The same is true of communism. Communism and socialism did not die when the former Soviet Union fell from grace in 1991. It just went into hibernation.

Finland’s immigration and asylum policy

The history of Finland’s immigration policy and its views of diversity raise a lot of questions. It was only in 1983 when Finland got its first immigration act. Before that, and like in many countries that did not respect human rights, Finland denied foreigner, among many other things, habeas corpus. Finland even returned Soviet citizens back to the USSR even if they asked for asylum.

If we have not had an earnest debate about the questionable way Finland’s immigration policy treated non-Finns in the last century, how can we have an honest discussion today about our immigration and asylum policy, which have come under heavy criticism from human rights groups like Amnesty International?


Aleksander Shatravka and Irina visited my home in Mikkeli in October 2011. He was forcibly returned to the Soviet Union despite requesting asylum from Finland in 1974.


Finland is still suffering from Urho Kekkonen amnesia. Even so, heroines like Pennanen with her civil disobedience show to us that this country’s eyes are slowly but surely waking up from its long cold war slumber.

That was a disgraceful period when it came to refugees and migrants but we seem to always return to it like now.

* 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.

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