Immigrants in Finland must rise up and challenge the ogre of indifference

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

What can be done if Finland’s third-largest party in parliament is not only anti-EU but strongly anti-immigration? One of the things you should not do is stay home and gripe. Many immigrants and multicultural Finns had it worse in the early 1980s, when the then Aliens’ Office could throw any foreigner they pleased in jail or deport him from the country. 

That was before Finland got its first Alien’s Act in 1983, or 65 years after independence. Immigrants had few if any rights at the time. If you were a foreign resident, the Restricting Act of 1939 made sure that you could not own land and set up businesses in many sectors like forestry.

If you asked the police leadership at the time why Finland had such a restrictive policy against foreigners, their argument is bascially the same even today: To keep criminals from moving to Finland.

With public officials having that kind of attitude, that foreigners are potential criminals, it’s pretty clear why xenophobia and racism have grown strong roots in this country.

Rodolfo Walsh was a radical journalist from Argentina who was killed for speaking out against the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina in 1976-83.

Even if Walsh’s quote below has a 1970s spirit in it, the message is still applicable to immigrants and multicultural Finns: Our dominant classes have made sure that the worker has no history, doesn’t have a doctrine, any heroes or any martyrs. Every struggle has to be started from scratch, separated from previous struggles; the collective history is lost, their lessons are forgotten. History appears as it if were private property, whose owners are the owners of everything.

One will find that immigrants and multicultural Finns have hardly any history in Finland. Why? Because this group hasn’t been acknowledged. But if we look a bit closer, there is a lot that can be brought to the surface like that very important and symbolic march of October 19, 1982.

Hopefully it will inspire new immigrants and Finns from all backgrounds to march and demand their rights in a Finland that is still struggling to accept us.

This picture of the 1982 march was published on the front page of HYY=Peli.

As one can see from the picture that appeared on the front page of Kansan Uutiset (20.10.1982), the march attracted many people. It was also the main story on the 8:30pm news on television.


  1. HannaBee

    OK, this is what I am talking about. Knowing yesterday is essential in understanding today. And knowing today is necessary to change tomorrow.
    People need to see Finland has already come along way, even if we still have a long way to go.

  2. Singaporean_in_Finland

    You see Enrique, like many people, I came here for love. I have a Finnish wife and kids, own a free standing house on half an acre of land, I work in the technology sector and have had no big issues with anyone here.

    Looking at the way things are going now, I don’t feel safe here as a dark skinned person anymore. Reading about the increase in attacks, I also fear for my children. Just after the elections, for the first time since we’ve lived here, my eldest daughter was asked if she was a foreigner or a Finn. My wife has also been told by a woman she had an argument with about a parking space “what tree did those monkeys fall from” in reference to my southern-European-looking daughters.

    I love living in Finland but for the first time ever I’m starting to think about moving my family to Singapore. If I go, my taxes, knowledge and years of experience goes with me and replacing me will be very difficult and will cost my company a lot more wasted time and money than keeping me will.

    • Enrique

      Singaporean_in_Finland I hear you loud and clear:”I came here for love. I have a Finnish wife and kids… Looking at the way things are going now, I don’t feel safe here as a dark skinned person anymore. Reading about the increase in attacks, I also fear for my children.”

      No only immigrants but there are many Finns who are just as concerned. How could I explain it… The Suomen Sisu members of the PS were like a match that ignited the volatile air caused by the recession. Instead of trying to build good ethnic relations in Finland they went on a path lined with racism. But we are not going to be swayed by them because they are a fakes. If they lived in the 1930s we all know for which side they’d be rooting for.

      Things have been worse in Finland for immigrants and now, for the sake of our children, we cannot tolerate the type of racism we are seeing from public servants like politicians. When are we going to organize that big demonstration? I am certain that it will happen in the next four years.

  3. Anonymous mamu in finland

    In my opinion I think that Finland is the most racist, ethno-centrist, savagely tribalistic country in the world. Sweden, for example, appears to be a paradise compared to these backward and savage Finns. Finns believe that everything from beyond their shores is inferior. They think that their ‘kansakunta’ or national race, are the best of the best in the world. They despise any type of foreign presence in their country. They especially despise succesful immigrants. They are shut off 3 time from the world. The first is with their closed borders to virtually all immigration, the second is with propping up the Swedish language, which is a language of a tiny minority on the west coast of Finland that -all speak fluent Finnish- to begin with. The tribal Finns hate foreigners so much that they are pushing foreigners in Finland to learn Swedish and not adopt or integrate into Finnish society because its simply impossible for a vamma (or retarded) alien to to integrate into their master race. The most popular political party now in opinion polls, the perussuomalaiset, or persut, have espoused Nazi ideology from the beginning as in showcasing Finnish national artwork and, as mentioned in this article, giving ‘foreigner’s’ brown ID cards. Finn’s are a deeply, deeply sick people who do not know how to be a country after Sweden left them in 1812. They don’t want others learning their language, they want to be a closed, shut-off european version of north korea. In many ways they are succeeding. Don’t be fooled by the glitter and glam of Helsinki, around 5 am you will see all the cleaners being African cleaning up after drunk Finn’s. All the bus drivers after 11 are ‘foreigners’ driving these drunk Finns home. They live in denial and in an un-reality.

    There needs to be more marches like the one in October 1981. There needs to be more concerted action towards uniting all of Finland’s disparate immigrant/refugee groups under one umbrella to counteract the tribalistic tendencies of the Finn’s. I affectionately call them a heimolaiskunta.

    I think that this all going to come to head, and it might get ugly. I am afraid of what will happen when the bubble is popped.

  4. JusticeDemon

    The demo outside Vanha Ylioppilastalo on 10 December 1988 was another important milestone. This focused very specifically on articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and underlined the point that 40 years after joining this proclamation Finland had still not guaranteed freedom of peaceful assembly and expression of opinion to foreigners.

    Indeed the demonstrators could have been arrested for merely calling public attention to this national embarrassment. In the event the Finnish authorities did not have the courage to enforce the law that banned foreigners from organising demonstrations, and indeed this perception was the entire point of holding the demo.

    It seems to me that anyone who even suggests returning to those times is simply beneath contempt.

  5. Mary Mekko

    I wonder how things are in Singapore? No one ever makes any remarks there? I doubt there’s any place in the world where people don’t make remarks about your appearance if you differ greatly from the majority. I thought Singapore was multiracial, but heavily Chinese, and that they control politics and money generally, looking down on all dark-skinned people, especially the native Malays. I feel sorry for your daughters, but they will find such attitudes everywhere they go except in a country where they resemble the locals. Is that India in your case?

    I know that it’s unfair, it’s even crazy, yet it’s universal. As an Irish woman, I encountered it in snide remarks in England, and even now in the attitudes of British upper-middle-class who come on my tourbuses here in San Francisco. If there is anything to teach your daughters, it is pride in being what they are, and that they cannot change other people, nations, tribes, etc. They must learn to “rock and roll” with whatever country they land up in, as bi=racial kids, later working adults who need to keep a paycheck. They can’t get upset with every insult! They have to learn to joke a bit, as I have had to do in England. Self-mockery is VERY effective, especially against smug types unused to it. When black guys insulted and attacked me in my native San Francisco, I learned to fight back with words against them. Don’t be a victim, girls, you haven’t even entered puberty yet, you will find out what real tribulations can be. But those are the scum who do such things; spit ugly words back, but don’t care. I still don’t care about black guys here, but nor will I forget their race hatred and hate crimes either.

  6. Mary Mekko

    As my Irish CAtholic mother would say, “You can’t change them. You can only refrain from showing racism yourself, and set a good example.” Perhaps that will be yours and your daughters’ mission in Finland, to take the upper hand and not respond to insults. Emphasize above all else that they can control their own actions. If they dislike Mustalainen or Somalis, tell them to restrain their reactions. I can bet it won’t be easy for them to contain their own racism.

  7. HannaBee

    I bet “anonymous mamu” is not a “mamu” at all but some nazi trolling, trying to make more prejudices against immigrants: “See, they all hate us. I told you so! Here is the proof!”.

    A successful troll is sucessful. When it comes to that “mamu, that is not the case.

  8. Jenkki

    I don’t think so HannaBee. To me it sounds like someone who is frustrated with the daily humiliations that immigrants have to go through in order to put food on the table and not get kicked out of this “lottery ticket” country.

    It’s great how long Finland has come…But where Finland stands now on the treatment and recognition of its immigrant and minority populations is *pathetic*.

  9. Seppo

    – “Finn’s are a deeply, deeply sick people”

    I am sorry for any negative experiences that you have encountered in Finland. But this is just too much.

    I cannot, simply cannot, recognize any of my friends or relatives in that description of yours. And I have a lot of friends. I think your statement is extremely controversial.

    I think it is not a smart thing to do to start bashing all the Finns. Most people in this country, especially the younger generation, are quite international and tolerant and don’t share at all the world view that you described.

    By calling all Finns deeply sick you will not contribute to a better future for the immigrants in Finland. Quite the opposite.

  10. Singaporean_in_Finland

    @Mary Mekko

    The ideas you hold about race shows you to be an idiot bigoted racist through and through.

    Your lack of knowledge about Singapore is laughable at best. There are many political issues I have with Singapore and like any society, race is an issue, but the threat of racist violence is definitely not one of them. Our President S.R. Nathan is Tamil Indian, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is Malay/Chinese, Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi is Javanese/Chinese, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong is Malay/Chinese. Being mixed race is very common there. I myself have a Chinese father and Tamil mother and I grew up speaking Mandarin and English primarily.

    Only 2.91 million of Singapore’s 5 million population were born locally yet the country seems to be thriving.

    • Enrique

      Singaporean_in_Finland, it would be great if you could tell us how Singaporeans learn tolerance and acceptance.

  11. Jamaican in Finland

    Marching is an excellent idea, but it should just be the start!

    What next after the marches? We immigrants need to form an umbrella body such as the NAACP, where immigrant affairs can be dealt with. An organization where immigrants can go to to get help when they feel aggrieved. If anything, a recognized organization can bring international attention to our plight as immigrants here in Finland, and thus force authorities to take the issue more seriously.We can’t rely on the minorities Ombudsman to do take care of all our concerns.

    Time all immigrants stand together and lobby for fair treatment here in Finland.If we just sit and wait then nothing will be done to relieve our plight.

    • Enrique

      Jamaican in Finland, I agree. After the marches an organization like the NAACP would be in place. Intead of being the National Association for the advancement of colored people it should be the National Assocation for the Advancement of Cultural Diversity in Finland or something along those lines.

      There are many ways to protest: petitions, hunger strikes etc.

  12. Singaporean_in_Finland

    @Enrique

    We learned our racial lessons during the founding of our republic in the 60’s. There are laws in place against all forms of racism and they are strictly enforced when necessary. Everything is shared equally amongst everyone. We also don’t make a big deal about each other’s religions. Finding a Hindu temple right next to a Buddhist temple with a Christian church 50 meters further down the street is not unusual.

    • Enrique

      Very interesting, Singaporean_in_Finland.

      –We also don’t make a big deal about each other’s religions.

      This is what some call acceptance. When we make a big deal about “Others” we are generally stating that we don’t accept them.

      It would be great if you could, when you have time, to provide us with some links so we could read up on this in Singapore.

  13. Timoteo

    Seppo, June5. I couldn’t agree more with you. I’m in the same position as you are, as fas as number of friends and my attitude towards immigrants.
    Having swedish as my mothertounge I have experienced a lot of intimidation, threats etc, since I was about seven years old. But it has not lowered my patriotic feeling and my being a Finn. I certainly not imagine that all the other Finns are against me. But I could provoce them if I wanted to, but I don’t, I have no reason for that.

    • Enrique

      Hi Timoteo and welcome to Migrant Tales. I agree 100% with you. Being patriotic does not mean bashing others. Patriotism means a sense of community and accepting others. This is, as you mentioned, a key point.

  14. Timoteo

    I think we Finns have different attitudes regarding “immigrants” and “refugees”.
    My guess is that among us Finns a common definition of an immigrant is: economically independent person and for a refugee is: a person dependent on governmental economic support. For a radical Finn there is perhaps no distinction between these two, or he/she sees a tax money consumer in every foreigner, even if he/she have not paid taxes themselves = jealousy.

    • Enrique

      I agree, Timoteo. A refugee is only a transit house towads getting a residence permit and becoming an immigrant. In the United States, the most uneducated and racist white USAmericans were spiteful of blacks getting social welfare. The best way to build a strong Finland is that we accept our cultural diversity. It is already a reality but some people are having a difficult time accepting it. They are vehemently against “multiculturalism” but don’t tell us what will happen to Finns who are multicultural or to immigrants living here.

  15. Youre all wrong

    Youre all wrong. Its a mistake to think that some Finns hate foreigners exclusively. What they actually hate are people who are different. This is regardless of nationality / race. Ever notice how Finns all wear clothing that doesnt stand out? Or how theyre afraid to go on marches? Or how gay people get bashed? Dont think you foreigners are so special, the hate is directed at everyone who stands out of the crowd!

    • Enrique

      Hi Youre all wrong, welcome to our blog. Fair enough, the argument is some Finns who are against cultural diversity, or the Other. Do you think that some immigrants and multicultural Finns feel special by this hate? I don’t think so. Carrying another person’s hatred is million times worse than living in a society that is acceptant.

  16. Anonymous Mamu in Finland

    There are a few good Finns out there that don’t meet the above description. But they are so rare, like needles in haystacks, that once you find one of them you need to hold on tight. Usually they have studied in graduate school in Atlanta, doing missionary work in Malawi, worked on a farm in Chile or taught English in Japan. If they have been put in a position of being a minority in a majority type situation then they do have empathy.

    I just wish sometimes that I had the hand/eye coordination of the tribespeople so that my clothing tastes, the way I walk, or the way I breathe would not set me apart from them.

    @Seppo, saying that -all- finn’s are deeply sick is wrong, but many aren’t all right upstairs

  17. Seppo

    – “many aren’t all right upstairs”

    This is true 🙂 You don’t need to go any further than taking a look at the election results two moths ago to make this conclusion.

    However, there are stupid people everywhere. I know that as a Finn I cannot be objective and that as a Finn I naturally feel the need to defend my nation against accusations. But I would not say that there are more people “not all right upstairs” in Finland than in any other countries. Finns are more conservative and nationalistic than, say, the Swedes. Even though it is not a good thing, it does not make Finns sick or dum.

    I think it is reasonable to point out that Sweden is one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in the whole world. Finland’s other neighbouring countries, Estonia and Russia, are far more conservative, ethnocentric and racist than Finland. This is no excuse, absolutely not. In many ways we should look up to Sweden and try to become more liberal and tolerant.

    – “Usually they have studied in graduate school in Atlanta, doing missionary work in Malawi, worked on a farm in Chile or taught English in Japan.”

    But this is not true. There is one political party in Finland which is clearly anti-immigrant. It got 19% of votes – more than ever. However, at least 20 % of people voted for parties which are clearly and very openly pro-immigrant (RKP, Left Alliance, the Greens). All of these people did not do missionary work in Malawi, that’s for sure.

    I don’t want to get too personal, but I have to make the conclusion that you come originally from outside Europe and you at least have a darker skin colour. There are different immigrant groups and they are treated differently in Finland. The more visibly different you are, the more probable it is for you to become a victim of racism.

    My girlfriend has lived in Finland for five years and hasn’t experienced any racism at all. She would hardly make a statement that Finland is a racist country. Even though she looks foreign, she’s white and blonde and clearly European.

    This shows how different experiences different immigrants can have. Unfortunately, it also shows the racist structure of the society – the lighter the skin colour, the easier to get accepted. And vice versa.

    • Enrique

      –I don’t want to get too personal, but I have to make the conclusion that you come originally from outside Europe and you at least have a darker skin colour.

      Were you speaking of me? My mother is Finnish, I have lived most of life in this country. I think the question boils down to acceptance. That is what is so wrong with some PS MPs: they don’t acknowledge other Finns never mind those with multicultural backgrounds. They have a sort of 1930s stereotypical time warped view of who the Finns are. If you consider for a moment that over a million Finns left this country, was under Swedish and Russian rule for about 600 years, who can claim that we are “monocultural?” Maybe in between our ears but the truth is that we are more mutlicultural than we would want to think. That is a fact.

    • Enrique

      Thank you, María. I would be interested to hear how your multicultural background has molded you as a person. One of the biggest discoveries I made about all my backgrounds is that they are all one – not separate. Maybe what is at stake when we speak of racism and discrimination it boils down to economics: which group has access to the wealth and keeps other groups from accessing it.

      As some wise person once said, there are more similarities between cultures than differences between them. Do you agree?

  18. Mark

    Anonymous Mamu in Finland

    – “Finn’s are a deeply, deeply sick people who do not know how to be a country after Sweden left them in 1812. ”

    That’s way over the top and totally unacceptable Mamu, regardless of what experiences you have of racism. You are no better in processing your experiences than our resident racist Allan, who was mugged by some foreigners of dark skin some years ago and has basically given up on all others and has nothing good to say, though he hides behind some rather cerebral notions of fairness and discrimination that nevertheless all point in one direction Finns first. You are pointing in the opposite direction – Finns last.

    It goes without saying that you are wrong. You are wrong about racism being a sickness in Finland. Many laws have been enacted to protect foreigners from discrimination, over 60 separate pieces of legislation, while countless government and NGO programmes have been put in place to welcome foreigners and help them achieve a state of independence and wellbeing in Finland. I’d say the majority of Finns want to see tolerance in Finland. I’d be happy to agree with you in saying that a debate about racism needs to happen in Finland, but I think that accusing Finns of being sick is grossly disproportionate as a response to the racism that does exist here.

  19. Allan

    “Anonymous mamu” – if Sweden is a paradise, why don’t you go there? The happiness levels in both countries would significantly rise. No need to suffer in Finland, unlike North Korea, you are free to leave. Somehow I find it quite amusing your rant of the Swedish language, as it is the SFP advocating it strongly, and SFP being one of the strongest pro-immigrant parties. While it is the PS advocating “learning Finnish”. Seems they all got the target audience wrong.

    And Enrique, the Saami aren’t “a tribe”, they have 9 different languages (some mutually unintelligible), its like putting all immigrants together as a tribe. Finns are composed of tribes, the current nation-state just composes of the majority of them, and history has integrated these tribes together more strongly than say in Estonia, where they had two “written languages” even until late.

    • Enrique

      –“Anonymous mamu” – if Sweden is a paradise, why don’t you go there?

      This is such a basic-instinct response used so many times that it puts people to sleep. Why should anyone have to move anywhere because he disagrees? Allan please…

      In the United States we had a saying: America, love it or leave it. Others followed: America, change it or lose it.

  20. laimach

    Yes Allan your comment is dull ! You just made me remember the 7 bros of Alexis Kivi.
    By the way, The vox populi in Estonia believe Finns are denscendants of Estonians!
    Amusing??
    And one more questions what’s with all the hate towards Sweeds? After all they
    brought literature (they thaught us how to read and write), Music, freedom, administrative
    systems……..
    Have a good day !

  21. Allan

    Well the 7 brothers didn’t like living in the village so they moved out and both were happy.

    Estonians and Finns were just separate “tribes” originating from the same roots. There was continuous exchange over the Gulf of Finland the dialects have quite much in common, even the languages then separated and became more distinct in the historical era.

    Laimach – why do the native Americans hate Columbus? After all he brought literature etc…

  22. laimach

    Allan, Terve again,

    I have never heard or read that Native Americans hate Columbus !!!
    I really wonder where you get your info from !! Do you make you own history??
    He is seen as a hero just like Mannerheim in Finland !! They even have a Columbus day and
    I believe is the 12th of October. As the Vox populi of Estonia you have your own view of things.
    You are entitled !! They are as well and yes, they believe finnish language is a dialect of Estonian. And so you recognize Sweeds educated us??

  23. Ezi

    The only emotion greater than grief is FEAR: When you get scared you do things in panic & the end result is fatal chaos. There is no way things can change for the better as long as there is confrontation. It is important as adults be it an immigrant or a Finn to understand that, it is not in our interest to antagonize the majority just to satisfy your urge, that is generated from fear of those who you consider “them”. Make your point with out showing your fear or insecurity; that means no insults, stereotypes or revers racism. Foreigners or immigrants can organize them selves efficiently and successfully through their non profit organizations ; assuming they can work together for the common cause.

  24. María

    Laimach:

    Where did you get it from that Columbus is a hero for us (native south Americans)? hello??!!
    If anything he was the one who brought centuries of misery, blood shed, diseases and the practically the decimation of our people…the last thing we think of him is that he was a hero.

    Enrique:

    I don’t really think that we are that different between cultures, but as you said tolerance has to be double-sided and that is the tricky part. I personally don’t have anything against any particular race or culture, but I am 100% against injustice and hatred no matter who practices it, in that sense I despise as much a, let’s say, Finnish raper than an immigrant raper, a Finnish drug-dealer than a Colombian drug dealer, what I despise above all is bad behavior, no matter the race or culture (just examples here). If humans don’t start changing their mentality, I don’t know where will we end, but it won’t be good.

    • Enrique

      –I don’t know where will we end, but it won’t be good.

      María, I don’t think we have to go there because we are already there.

  25. William O'Gorman

    Finland is a good country. This is a basic fact and anyone who has ever lived in more then one country and can then compare, can see this. It is pretty welcoming for Immigrants and as an immigrant it can be quite nice to live here. Many services are English, generally kind and honest people, good services.. Of course there are negatives but to state that the country is so bad is not fair.

    The issue is where is this great little country going and how is the population being influcenced by a few clever people looking for political power and appealing to the lowest common denominators. Finland is at such a pivotal point now.

    It has fought through terrible times and now this generation is free of poverty and war but it is this generation that is also in some way lost and looking to build the future of the country. Now the country needs to choose the correct path to go down and not have its choices clouded by fear and ignorance.

    This is a good country and we who live here are in our own way fighting for it with our actions and words and we should remember that.

    • Enrique

      Hi William, totally agree: Finland is a great country to live in. Let’s not lose it to the extremists and right-wing populists.

  26. Mark McGreevey

    And more importantly, don’t lose Finland to the Communists. If you need another Winter War to keep the leftists at bay, go at it with Molotov cocktails smack into the tanks’ rears!!! And don’t forget the sausage battle – sizzling fat can lure many a starving Commie to a roasting fire to get shot by a Finn in white behind a birch tree.

    Why did the Communists deport the Karelians to Siberia, Enrique? Aren’t all those leftists good and the rightists bad? Please explain to us why the left is a good safe government. The average Finn knows what’s bad – Russian/Commie takeover, property confiscation, etc.

  27. Mark McGreevey

    Mr. Singaporean, half-Tamil, half-Chinese: I cannot believe you that Singapore is free of racism. I have contact daily with all kinds of Chinese, from different parts of Asia, including Singapore. They themselves tell me how things are, that the Chinese dominate in Singapore, look down on the Malays (bang-sai), and all dark people are dirty and inferior. The Singaporean government tries hard to use neighborhood forced integration ratios, but the Chinese mentality remains the superior one. Mandarin is needed in most of the good jobs, I’ve been told, and it’s almost impossible to master if not tackled from youth, especially its written form. I’m sure Singapore is thriving, and certainly much better off than the kampong days of old, but that doesn’t mean that racism isn’t there. I wish you’d tell the truth, it sets you free. In these Internet and cheap travel days, we readers here know too much to believe that your home country is so trouble-free, unless it’s just fear of the gao-men, lah!

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