Live coverage of Oikeus elää – A Right to live الحق للعيش demonstration

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Oikeus elää – A Right to live الحق للعيش demonstrations are taking place in Helsinki, Kolari, Kemi and elsewhere.

World Refugee Day is celebrated on June 20.

Is Iraq a safe country to return asylum seekers? Many disagree.

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Writes Beri Jamal: Today is an important day for humanity and for all refugees who have received a judgment to be sent back to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. We want to protest against this decision that these countries are not safe for them to return to. Let us participate and influence the decision, let our voices reach to the authorities and tell them that this decision is unfair approved and is against all humanity!

16.42:  Narikkatori square in Helsinki is full and there are some 500 people taking part in the demonstration, according to Jamal.

16.42: The small town of Kolari, located in northern Finland is demonstrating and send us the following picture and video. Näyttökuva 2016-6-20 kello 17.03.38

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Oikeus elää – A Right to live الحق للعيش demonstration tomorrow at 4:00 pm in Helsinki (Narikkantori, Kamppi)

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The Finnish government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has done everything possible to make asylum seekers feel unwelcome in Finland. On Friday, they tightened family reunification guidelines and recently did away with giving residence permits on humanitarian grounds

The new family reunification law makes it virtually impossible for an asylum seeker who gets a residence permit to bring his or her family from abroad.

Asylum seekers and Finns will demonstrate against an assessment by the government that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are safe to return asylum seekers.

“We hope the government will change the decision [on Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia],” said an Iraqi asylum seeker who plans to attend Monday’s demonstration. “We didn’t come to Finland to live off your social welfare.”  

What is grotesque about the new law is that the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, with the support of their government partners, the Center Party and National Coalition Party (NCP), want to reassure their voters that they are as xenophobic as before even if their support in the polls has plummeted

The Center Party and NCP have struck a deal with the PS:  You have carte blanche to spread anti-immigration rhetoric and we’ll support the tightening of immigration policy as long as you support our massive budget cuts, which will hit pensioners, low-income and middle-class families.

After Sipilä’s government laid thorns on the path of asylum seekers in Finland, there is one matter that they can’t do anything about: Extinguish their hope.

That’s why tomorrow’s demonstration at 4:00pm in Helsinki (Kamppi) is one of the last chances that asylum seekers and concerned Finns have to show that they won’t be bullied by one of the country’s most anti-immigration governments seen in a long time.

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Visit Facebook site here.

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Iraqi asylum seeker hunger strike: Before and after

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Namir al-Azzawi was on hunger strike for nine days. On those two days he fainted and was sent to the hospital on Wednesday and Sunday. Migrant Tales spoke to him on Friday.

One of the matters that surprised me was how rapidly the banner and pictures disappeared from the site where he staged the protest.

Al-Azzawi doesn’t know who took them down but said it happened on the same day he ended the hunger strike.

 

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The picture on the left was taken on June 11 and the one of the right four days after al-Azzawi’s hunger strike ended. The site is located right across the little parliament.

Al-Azzawi wrote on Sunday, June 5:

Dear People of Finland,

I started my hunger strike on Sunday in protest of the unfair decision by the Immigration Authorities (Migri), which claim that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are safe to return asylum seekers. Many of us Iraqis were disappointed by the decision taking into account that we fled that country because it wasn’t and still isn’t safe. I will not stop my hunger strike until the Immigration Authorities change their decision.

Maria Rittis Ikola: Imagine a world without white privilege

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Maria Rittis Ikola*

Imagine that white Finns like me weren’t able to speak over others in every medium available. Imagine a time when white people were not able to express their confusion and dismay over political correctness in prime spaces in Finnish newspapers, because nobody would let them. Imagine that racialised journalists didn’t have to confine their voices to blogs where they called out white writers on their othering writing but had newspaper columns and editorials to themselves. Imagine a time where white people did not call to Rev. Martin Luther King’s words on how people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, adding how isn’t it racist to talk back to white people, because nobody would do this because King was murdered because he spoke for Black people, and nobody in their right mind would claim we live in a society where racism doesn’t exist. Imagine that Finns wouldn’t cry out for how unjust the world is because reverse racism really doesn’t exist, but white fragility does. Actually, let me take out that “imagine”part, it’s too utopian anyway.

It’s too utopian to ask a white columnist in Helsingin Sanomat to not tokenize racialised writers and artists and make them mannequins of what has gone too far in political correctness. Too utopian to not link to Sonja Saarikoski’s column, so instead here is Sonya Lindfors’s recap of how she was asked to be interviewed and refused, the link is included of course ( https://m.facebook.com/sonya.lindfors.3/posts/10153764127048691).

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Finland tightens family reunification laws and denies migrants the right to a family

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The Finnish parliament didn’t vote Friday to tighten even further family reunification guidelines but effectively socially excluded and relegated migrants, especially asylum seekers, to second- and third-class citizens. The news ironically coincides with the death of former Rural Party MP Sulo Aittoniemi (1936-2016), an advocate against refugees and cultural diversity. 

Article 16 of the Human Rights Charter guarantees protection to families:

Article 16.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

And then there’s Section 6 of the Finnish Constitution that states: Everyone is equal before the law.

Are migrants, specifically asylum seekers that get a residence permit, equal before the law?

Certainly not since they don’t have a right to live with their families in Finland.

Is it a coincidence that Aittoniemi, who served as MP between 1987 and 2003, passed away on this dark day for migrants with families? 

Aittoniemi’s views and scorn for refugees, cultural diversity, and gays were well known.

In one comment in 1989 he vowed that “we won’t allow refugees to walk over us!” according to YLE

Social Democrat MEP Liisa Jakkosaari  once called Aittoniemi “a demagogue and charlatan” after he claimed that refugees that come to Finland only do so for economic reasons.  

Taking into account Aittoniemi’s views of migrants, it is surprising the Helsingin Sanomat does mention the former MP’s issues with gays but not a word about his racist views and stands.

If parliament showed in one vote how it loathes migrants and their human rights, the Helsingin Sanomat article showed how much the media denies a social illness like racism.

When some asylum seekers ask me why a country like Finland, which they thought respects human rights, tightens its family reunification law, my answer to them is simple and straightforward: We have one of the most anti-immigration governments in a long time. They tightened family reunification guidelines because they don’t want you in this country.

The new family reunification law means in effect that it will be virtually impossible for asylum seekers to bring their families here if they get a residence permit.

After an asylum seeker has his residence permit, he or she has three months to apply for family reunification. In order to be eligible, the person has to make 2,600 euros/month after taxes in order to bring his spouse and two children.

According to Pekka Myrskylä, a Statistics Finland researcher, only 20% of Finns make that amount of money today.

“What’s the point of getting a residence permit when they make it impossible for you to bring your family to this country?” said a disappointed Iraqi asylum seeker.

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Read full story here.

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MP Jo Cox’s death revealed and reminded how important our struggle against barbarism is

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On Thursday, we heard about the tragic killing of Labor MP Jo Cox, which was a stark reminder of the things she warned us about like hate speech, racism and outright hostility towards migrants and minorities. All we can do when such a heinous act gives us and our democratic institutions a blow is to stand strong. 

Cox death reveals in naked reality where Europe is failing and how it wants to correct its failure with violence. The brutality and bloodshed we are witnessing on European soil also involves the hundred of thousands of asylum seekers who have fled strife to only be given the cold shoulder by the European Union as was the deal with Turkey.

A paragraph in The Guardian sheds light on Cox’s death below.

“The idealism of Ms Cox was the very antithesis of such brutal cynicism. Honor her memory. Because the values and the commitment that she embodied are all that we have to keep barbarism at bay.”

A good synonym for barbarism is inhumanity.

Finland’s efforts to keep barbarism at bay are disappointing to say the least. The rise of the xenophobic Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party, the silence of most politicians to ever-growing racism and discrimination, stiffening family reunification laws and immigration laws, near-constant bravado and saber rattling from politicians are some of the challenges we have had in keeping barbarism at bay.

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See full video here.

We don’t keep barbarism at bay in Finland either when the PS foreign minister, Timo Soini, only offers silence about Cox’s death.

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YLE parliamentary working group: Broadcaster is “diverse but not multicultural”

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A parliamentary working group chaired by National Coalition Party (NCP) MP Arto Satonen to examine the role of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) is not proposing any drastic change to the system of funding but plans to make the broadcaster more nationalistic. 

One of the most surprising matters that the parliamentary working group will change concerning YLE’s role is exchanging the name “multicultural” for “cultural diversity.”

While the term “cultural diversity” is a good synonym for “multiculturalism,”  striking off the latter term from YLE’s role shows blatant ignorance and how nationalism and intolerance have crept into Finnish politics.

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Culturally diverse Finland has a history

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Enrique Tessieri*

Because migrants and minorities in Finland do not have power, we are taught to believe we are rootless and have no historicity. It is not true: migrant and anti-racism activism in Finland was already very alive in the 1980s.

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The demonstration in October 1982 demanded basic rights for foreigners in Finland.

“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 start 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.” Rodolfo Walsh (1928-77)

The late Argentinean writer and social activist Rodolfo Walsh (1927-77) showed the power of investigative journalism in Argentina when he published Operation Massacre in 1957. The book exposed how supporters of president Juan Domingo Perón were captured and shot by the military junta’s secret firing squad, after Perón was deposed by a military coup. Walsh’s quote, that the worker has no history, offers a good description of the situation of migrants and minorities in Finland today. Even if we too aren’t supposed to have any history, the interesting question to ask is why we are taught to believe that we are rootless and living on the outer fringes of society.

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