By Enrique Tessieri
Even though the troubled city of Lieksa is taking bold steps forward in its fight against racism, it ends up taking some giant leaps back. A social worker, Soile Syrjäläinen, and her department have been the victims of harassment by some townsfolk. On Friday she got a bomb threat, and she has been harassed on a daily basis. She even got spat at by a client, according to the Joensuu-based daily Karjalainen.
A very simple and honest question: What’s going on in Lieksa, again?
Lieksa, a small city of 12,800 inhabitants with about 250 immigrants mostly from Somalia, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Located near the Russian border in far-flung Pohjois-Karjala, this city is the home of the very blogger that suggested that foreigners should wear sleeve emblems to help the police in ethnic profiling.
Alain Minguet, a Joensuu resident who has done good work on the anti-racism front in the region, says that despite the present setbacks in Lieksa matters are improving.
“These are the same people who were on the [now closed] Facebook page, who are doing these things [like harassing social worker in Lieksa],” he said. “The mayor of the city has been more outspoken against what has been happening in Lieksa.”
Minguet is chairman of Joensuun seudun monikulttuurisuusyhdistys (Jomoni). He says that the association has worked closely with authorities and researchers to speak to people in Lieksa about the problems that racism can bring to the city.