Exposing white Finnish privilege #41: An Islamophobic politician and gender equality


A campaign for gender equality by Naisjäjestöt NJKL is an excellent example of white privilege and denial. In the tweet below with four pictures of only white women, we know that Elisabeth Rehn and former Helsiniki Bishop Irja Askola have spoken out against racism and hate speech. However, on the top right hand of the picture we find Blue Reform* (New Perussuomalaiset) MP Maria Lohela, who made her political career by spreading Islamophobia and hatred towards migrants.

I remember before the 2011 elections Lohela’s hostile posts against Muslims. She was one of the signatories of the Nuiva Manifesto in 2010. What does the it propose? In the simplest terms it is a manifesto that aims to further disenfranchise migrants and minorities in this country.

Here are some of the policy recommendations that Lohela endorsed in 2010:

  • Finland should not copy Sweden’s “multicultural” policies;
  • The Finnish state should stop financing immigrant groups’ culture, language, identity and religion;
  • They want to keep neighborhoods white with a red herring argument that they are against them becoming ghettos;
  • Endorse white supremacy by keeping neighborhoods “white” and peppering migrants as far apart from each other as possible so they will lose their culture and identity;
  • The manifesto recommends that new migrants should only be given social assistance for a year maximum. This, as anyone understands, is unconstitutional;
  • Deport migrants who commit crimes even to countries that are responsible for gross human rights violations;
  • Finnish citizenship will be granted on a conditional basis and can be revoked.

The policy recommendations of the Nuiva Manifesto are a far cry from social equality never mind gender equality. That is why Lohela’s picture in the Naisjärjestöt NJKL campaign is problematic.

Read the original tweet here.

White Finnish privilege #41


A Cameroonian’s rendezvous with near-deportation in Finland


After publishing the detention of an Iraqi asylum seeker in Lappeenranta on Tuesday, another asylum seeker contacted us on the same day. The asylum seeker was in police custody in the city of Vaasa. Contrary to the Iraqi asylum seeker, the Cameroonian was married to a Finn who is was expecting a child. 

His Finnish wife wrote a letter in case the authorities went through with her husband’s deportation.

“What am I thinking? I can’t think straight. I feel empty inside…They detained my beloved husband on the same day we heard about his rejection for asylum…What will I tell my unborn child the day he will ask where his father is and why he is not by our side?”

Matters looked bleak on Friday for the Cameroonian asylum seeker, who was transferred from Vaasa to the Metsälä immigration removal center in Helsinki. At 2 pm, however, he got a call from his wife who told him the good news: “The lawyer called and said your deportation was canceled.”

While the asylum seeker was relieved by the news, he was released at 5:11 pm. He wasn’t offered any compensation from the police to travel back to Vaasa from Helsinki.

The asylum seeker does not understand why he had to endure this ordeal and detention.

“Even if I feel relieved,” the asylum seeker said. “This has been a horrible experience.”

The asylum seeker applied for a residence permit after he got married in 2016, but it was turned down.

“It’s clear that they [Migri] doesn’t want me here,” he added.

Despite all that happened, an unanswered question remains: How can Migri deport an asylum seeker who is married to a Finn that is expecting a child?

A lawyer who works with asylum seekers told Migrant Tales that the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) deports even married people because they believe it would be in the best interest of the child.

“Migri is especially suspicious of Africans and non-Europeans who get married to Finns,” said another activist who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Email from the Cameroonian who got sent to the immigration removal center of Metsälä in Helsinki.


A letter from an Iraqi asylum seeker in detention cell 406 in Lappeenranta, Finland


Dear People of Finland,

I write this letter from a detention cell in Lappeenranta awaiting my possible deportation this week to Iraq. I’m worried and don’t know what will happen to me if I’m returned by force to Iraq. One matter is for sure: My life is in danger, and I won’t survive there.

My impression of Finland has changed: When I came to this country roughly two years ago, I was filled with hope. All I wanted back then was to live in a peaceful country. It’s all that I wanted, nothing more.


A picture taken by the Iraqi asylum seeker from his prison cell 406.

But today I’m bound by the walls of my cell and a barred window that gives me a view of the prison’s courtyard and the overcast day.

I want you to know, dear People of Finland that I’m no criminal.

My first question to you is why I am locked up in this cell? I was detained on October 23 in [the eastern Finnish city of] Mikkeli. The police tell me here that they have locked me up for already a week because I went to Germany. I fled to that country because I feared that I would be deported back to Iraq, which is apparently the case now.

Is it a “crime” if a young man like me wants a better future and to live in a country that is not consumed by war and violence? Is it a “crime” to search for a better life?

Is this the reason why I’m locked up today like a criminal in this detention cell?

Sincerely yours,

An Iraqi asylum seeker,

Detention Cell 406, Lappeenranta, Finland

Exposing white Finnish privilege #40: To whitewash or to disenfranchise


If we wanted to give an extreme picture of how people are “integrated” into society, we could go back to the 1940s when Jews, the Roma and other undesirables of the Nazi regime were transported in boxcars to death camps. Just like those that were separated and sent to go the gas chamber or would be worked to death, migrants face the same process but in a different context. 

Instead of sending people to their deaths or keeping them alive for a while, the system separates migrants into two general lines: whitewashing potential and disenfranchisement.

A good example of systematic whitewashing that took place in Finland happened right after the turn of the last century and in the 1930s when the dark shadow of fascism descended over Europe.

Suomalaisuuden liitto (the Association of Finnish culture and Identity), whose chairperson is today none other than Sampo Terho, boasts on its webpage that in 1935-36 there were over 200,000 people (about 6% of the population) that changed their surnames into Finnish ones. The Association of Finnish Culture and Identity claims that it “has played a remarkable role in Finnish cultural life.”

True, they have played a remarkable role in whitewashing and destroying diversity in Finland.

The document below shows how my grandparent’s family changed their surname in 1931:

“In light of the petition made by military instructor Harald Vilhelm Handtwargh, the governor of the province of Mikkeli grants his family permission to change their  surname to Harvo; this is backed by statements from the vicar [of the Lutheran church], Suomen Sukututkimusseura [Finnish Genealogical Society], and the Suomalaisuuden Liitto [Association of Finnish Culture and Identity.”


In my opinion, this form of whitewashing was an aberration and did nothing more than leave question marks for future generations to answers.

I sent an email to Finnish Genealogical Society and asked on October 14 how they define Finnish identity, cultural and ethnic diversity.

I am still waiting for a reply from them.


Migrants’ Rights Network: Why we should teach migration in schools


Migrant Tales’ insight: This piece is also relevant in Finland. Apart from putting them in special courses too easily, education authorities pay too little attention to migrants and minorities. This shouldn’t surprise us since they have little idea what it means to be Other in school.


Many migrant children feel excluded by their peers and silently endure prejudices, racism, bullying and discrimination. These cruel violations have the power to lock a child’s full potential away.

By Rockhaya Sylla*

One of my clients’ children said: “I don’t have any friends at school. I feel ashamed to approach other children because of my accent. In class, some children make fun of me or simply pretend that they do not understand me.”

She doesn’t talk about it to anyone though:” The teachers tell me to be patient and I can’t talk to my parents. I don’t want them to be worried about me.” Her parents have recently arrived and are facing similar forms of exclusion at work or when looking for housing.

Visit Migrants’ Rights Network website here.

“Where are you from?”

A friend recently told me: “my friend’s daughter goes to a private school and her friends refuse to believe that her father is a refugee because he has a very good job!”

It’s the same for children. For many, four little words make them feel excluded on a regular basis: “Where are you from?” And if when they respond that they are locals, they are asked again: “no, but where are you from?”


Two deportations, one Afghan, one Iraqi


Migrant Tales got two messages Wednesday night from two asylum seekers. One told about an Afghan asylum seeker at the Espoo asylum reception center run by Luona, and the other was of an Iraqi national at the Suonsaari asylum reception center in Mikkeli. Both were detained by the police and are awaiting deportation. 

The asylum reception center in Espoo is the same one where Jayyed Abbas Jafari died of a suspected brain hemorrhage in 2015. Suomen Kuvalehti wrote an extensive story about what happened to Jafari in January 2016.

Writes the asylum seeker about when the apprehension by the police of the Afghan asylum seeker:

The Iraqi asylum seeker in Mikkeli, located about 240km northeast of Helsinki, had three rejections for asylum. He’s friend writes about him:

“He is a normal guy who likes to surf the internet, listen to music, believes strongly in Jesus and is a member of the Pentecostal Church. He is energetic and from Baghdad. From what I know, he’s faced a lot of personal threats in Iraq and that is what he told Migri [the Finnish Immigration Service]. Like many asylum seekers [that came to Europe], he travelled far as well all way from Iraq through a number of EU countries to get to Finland. He came here because this is a peaceful country, not like Iraq. Life has not been too kind to him: three negative decisions from Mirgri and district courts and the fear of being deported back to Iraq. That’s why he went to Germany in the hope of not being deported. Things didn’t work out for him.”

“The Iraqi asylum seeker has been in police custody for three days. They sent him an invitation to come to the police station. The Red Cross, which runs the asylum center in Mikkeli, drove him to the police station where he was detained. I spoke to him by phone and he said that he hasn’t eaten for three days. I told him that he mustn’t give up. He must eat so he’ll have strength.”

Two deportations in the pipeline, one Afghan, and one Iraqi.

حكم غير مسبوق من المحكمة الإدارية في توركو: يمكن لطالبي اللجوء الحصول على دعم الدخل من كيلا



Landmark ruling by the administrative court of Turku: asylum seekers can get income support from Kela


The administrative court of Turku overturned on October 17 a decision by Kela, The Social Insurance Institute of Finland, to deny income support to refugees or undocumented migrants that are forced to leave an asylum reception center and have their allowances terminated.  There are 30 days to appeal the administrative court ruling.

The landmark case, if it isn’t challenged, not only brings Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government down to earth by questioning the country’s harsh and arbitrary policy towards asylum seekers but exposes the poor decisions made by Interior Minister Paula Risikko.

Visit the Kela in English page here.

Doing away with residence permits on humanitarian grounds, banning people from asylum reception centers and cutting off their allowances is going to be costly since asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants will be entitled to income support.