Foreign Student front cover from April 1981

by , under Enrique

Migrant Tales publishes on and off stuff from the past like magazine stories and Finnish tabloid ads, or lööppi in Finnish. The Foreign Student was a short-lived but courageous newsletter of the Foreign Student Club of Helsinki. The humble publication existed from January 1981 to January 1982 and lasted 11 issues. It was probably the first-ever publication in Finland that spoke out critically against Finland’s then non-existent and arbitrary immigration policy.

The editorial headlined “Self-Censorship” is critical about the then Aliens’ Office, which operates like a state within a state.

 “Many of us deep inside want to do something constructive for the cause of foreigners here in Finland. We want deep inside to see a law [Finland’s first Aliens Act of 1983] protecting us, a law which will give us security. Also, many of us feel a deep nervousness of the Aliens Office…Is our situation hopeless? Are we doomed to sit in silence for the rest of our days [in Finland]? What to do?”

Sounds like the same argument today.

The editor of the Foreign Student was officially John Arnold.  The editorials were written by Enrique Tessieri.

The front cover of the April 1981 issue represented the “ideal” foreigner, who never said anything bad nor raised a finger against the arbitrary treatment by the then Aliens Office. 

  1. justicedemon

    Was John Arnold a Finnish citizen at the time?

    It was illegal in 1981 for a foreigner to serve as editor of a periodical publication. The ban on foreign editors remained in force until December 1993.

    This was also a clear breach by Finland of a solemn undertaking made in the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty (article 6).

    • Migrant Tales

      JD, John Arnold was not a Finnish citizen at the time so I guess he could have gotten in a lot of trouble…

  2. justicedemon

    John Arnold was not a Finnish citizen at the time so I guess he could have gotten in a lot of trouble…

    Not really.

    This was part of a vaguely defined area of public policy covered by the concept of “in-practice rights”. The first official Ulkomaalais-opas publication (1987) explained this as follows:

    Ulkomaalaisen oikeudet ja velvollisuudet ovat monissa kohdin samanlaiset kuin Suomen kansalaisen. Merkittävin ero on siinä, että Suomen Hallitusmuodossa säädetyt kansalaisten perusoikeudet (esim. yhdenvertaisuus lain edessä, omaisuuden suoja, oikeus oleskella maassa, oikeus vapaasti valita asuinpakkansa ja kulkea pakkakunnalta toiselle, uskonnonvapaus sekä sanan-, paino-, yhdistymis- ja kokoontumisvapaus) koskevat vain Suomen kansalaisia. Käytännössä ulkomaalaiselle yleensä taataan samat oikeudet kuin suomalaisellekin.

    Obviously this last sentence is pure gibberish. Something that is only guaranteed “generally in practice” cannot be a “right” in any meaningful sense.

    The “Guide for Aliens” publication went through more than a dozen draft editions before the three publishing ministries could agree on the contents, partly because for years the unwritten policy had been to avoid giving any concrete answers to questions of rights where foreigners were concerned. The evident aim was to avoid any confrontation over such issues that might come to the attention of the press, and especially the international press.

    What this meant in practice was that the foreigner could safely ignore restrictions on activities such as editing a periodical, running a business as a sole trader, or organising a meeting or demonstration, because the authorities could be relied on never to take any positive initiative to enforce these restrictions.

    Aeroflot was accordingly able to operate for many years in Finland without the required trading licence. Foreigners in Finland organised the occasional demonstration and published various journals without ever requesting permission to do so. This behaviour was illegal, but nobody was ever prosecuted or even harassed by immigration officials. I recall a case involving a USAmerican man who sold English language lessons to Kela for many years via an unlicensed business. Out of pure ignorance, he neglected to take out private pension insurance and eventually got a rude demand for unpaid contributions. Records of this episode turned up in the man’s file at the old Aliens Office, and I recall a handwritten note by Eila Kännö in person calling attention to the obvious associated infringement of the Freedom of Trade Act. Even so, no action was ever taken against the foreigner concerned.

    On the other hand, any foreigner who bothered to approach the authorities and request permission to edit a periodical etc. would eventually be turned down after a long delay, often resulting from various attempts by officials to encourage the applicant to withdraw the application.

    All very amusing and silly with hindsight.

    • Migrant Tales

      JusticeDemon, thanks for clearing that up. You seem to have a lot of information about those days, publications by foreigners and the like. It would be interesting to hear a bit of history from those times.

  3. Timo

    JusticeDemon, in many ways that sounds similar to my current country of … well, not residence because I don’t have a residence permit, but you get the point. Very interesting.

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi Timo and welcome to our blog. We’d be interested in hearing your points of views on this fascinating topic.

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