What do politicians and public officials in Finland mean when they claim that integration is a two-way process? Is it only political correctness that motivates them to make up such claims or is it code that means one-way adaption, or assimilation?
The first question that I’d like to ask is what does two-way integration mean? How is it put in practice in Finland?
The table above shows the educational background of 15-64-year-old migrants (ulkomaalaistaustainen) and Finns (suomalaistaustainen) who have completed tertiary education (korkea aste), upper secondary school (toinen aste) or comprehensive school (peruskoulu). Source: Survey on work and well-being among people of foreign origin.
In an ideal world, it is supposed to mean – I suspect – when two equal members of society representing different cultures learn from each other and try to find synergies to create a stronger and more dynamic society. For such a thing to happen, however, there must be no institutional racism. And there’s a lot of that in Finland.
Finland’s largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, published a survey Friday about the minimum requirements that foreigners should adapt to if living here. Seventy-seven percent fully agreed that white Finns should be able to shake hands with both sexes. The survey showed as well that 52% were against women’s-only swimming hours and 37% felt that one should bathe naked in the sauna.
What surprised me the most, however, was that 32% were against men and women bus drivers using turbans and hijabs. That compared with 40% that said that teachers, the police or other public officials should not use any object to cover their hair.
Migrant Tales reported during 2013-2014 about the long struggle of a Sikh bus driver, Gill Sukhdarshan Singh, who won a landmark case to wear a turban at work.
While these are interesting expectations of white Finns in the survey they reinforce what we’ve known all along: Adaption of foreigners is a one-way process. It also reveals that people are reluctant to make room for cultural diversity.
Some findings of the Helsingin Sanomat survey on what Finns expect foreigners to accept about Finland. Read the full story here.
Since racism, bigotry, and exclusion are enforced by the majority’s power and privilege, it’s clear that the survey, the questions, and answers will respond to maintaining the status quo. The survey reveals as well Helsingin Sanomat’s simplistic view of how migrants should adapt to our society.
Migrant Tales got an unexpected friend request on Facebook late Tuesday evening. It was Zaki, one of the Afghan asylum seekers who was deported to Kabul on Tuesday with eleven other people.
Helsingin Sanomat published an extensive article about Zaki’s ordeal.
What makes Zaki’s case so frustrating is that the supreme district court overruled his deportation ruling by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) on Wednesday, a day after he was deported and escorted by 3-4 police officers to Kabul.
Hussein Kazemian interviewed Zaki by phone today. He said that both Zaki and his friend, Baran, who was also deported, are in shock and full of fear. For their long journey to Finland and months of uncertainty, they were given 200 US dollars* by the police on the flight for their worries.
Kazemian: What are you thoughts at this moment?
Zaki: I feel threatened and cannot go outside the IOM guest houses. I believe that those people who threatened me are looking for me. I hope I can find a way to return [to Finland].
Kazemian: What do you think about Migri’s decision to deport you?
Zaki: It’s unfair. I had a job [in Finland] and was living with a Finnish family.
After the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party imploded on June 13 into two factions, there’s been a lot of finger-pointing from members of the old and new PS. This is nothing new coming from a party that has a long track record in scapegoating migrants and minorities.
The old PS and the new PS, called today either New Alternative or Blue Reform, is the only party in Finland after World War 2 that is openly racist and Islamophobic to attract voters.
Don’t believe the new PS. They are the same thing but in different clothing and give justice to Malcolm X’s famous saying, “Racism is like a Cadillac. They bring a new model every year.”
The old and new PS are not just clowns and jokers to the left and right but hazardous to Finland’s political health.
Are we surprised that the deposed PS leader, Timo Soini, blames the far right and Suomen Sisu for the split in the party? What he sowed and reaped for many years ended up destroying him and the party.
Soini writes in his blog: “It’s silly to argue that a coup/job didn’t happen at the Perussuomalaiset party convention. Electing an anti-immigration hardliner [like Halla-aho] was for many too much. The stick that broke the camel’s back was when Suomen Sisu attempted to overtake the party council.”
Electing “an anti-immigration hardliner?!” Why didn’t he sack Jussi Halla-aho from the party in 2012, when he promised to do so if a party member got convicted for ethnic agitation?
Nour, one of the organizers of the #RightToLife Helsinki Railway Square demonstration that was closed after 140 days by the police on Friday, is hopeful that a new location will be found soon.
“We had talks today with Helsinki city officials and the police about a new site,” he told Migrant Tales by phone. “No place or date was given yet by the officials, but we are looking at places like Kiasma and Kamppi.”
Nour of the #RightToLife demonstration. Photo: Enrique Tessieri.
Nour admitted that the Helsinki Railway Square was a perfect place since its location in the heart of the city and a lot of people pass through there.
“I’m not counting my chicks before they’re hatched,” he said. “I’m not either optimistic or pessimistic.”
Nour was, however, adamant: “The demonstration will continue.”
Three Afghan asylum seekers had an appointment with the police who detain them. Two of them got the second negative decision earlier.
At the police station, a police official told them that they were detaining them because they were going to flee the country. Before locking them up, the police asked them to sign their deportation agreement. They refused.
”We will not sign it,” said one of the Afghan asylum seekers.
”We will deport you anyway [even if you sign it or not],” the police officer said.
Not all Finnish police treat Afghan asylum seekers in this way. Some treat them with respect and fairly.
Deporting people back to Afghanistan, and despite the Finnish Immigration Service’s (Migri) assurances, the country hasn’t been safe for over thirty years.