The government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä not only has tightened immigration policy but is complacent and near-silent about the rise of xenophobia and hate speech in Finland. Sure, we’ve heard so many times the familiar “we’re against racism” affirmations, which are only catchphrases that are not supposed to change anything.
If we are honest with ourselves, what can we expect from a government that has little regard for the most vulnerable sectors of society like the unemployed and those that are dependant on social welfare? If they treat people who live under the poverty line with disdain why would they care less for migrants never mind asylum seekers?
To make matters worse, Sipilä’s government comprises of a right-wing populist party, the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, which has made a name for itself with its nationalistic anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric. What can you say about the PS’ partners in government, the National Coalition Party (NCP) and the Center Party, which should know better but don’t?
I’m surprised by how little attention we pay in Finland to the connection between the rise of anti-immigration populism and hate crimes. Few care since the bottom line is that society and its institutions see migration and cultural diversity as a threat. Policy, rhetoric, even the Finnish Immigration Service’s videos on Finland convey the same message: We see you as a threat.
Wednesday was another day this week when we saw another example of how fear turned to hate and complacency fuel the lowest form of racist behavior.
An asylum seeker had attempted to commit suicide at the Helsinki Railway Square, where the Iraqis and Afghans have been demonstrating against deportations since February. According to Helsingin Sanomat, the young asylum seeker had climbed a tree and attempted to hang himself.
While what happened is one of a myriad of examples of how Migri is a source of despair for migrants, it is incredible to note the knee-jerk reaction of hatred that flooded some social media sites on that day. Finland, one of the most richest countries in the world with its renowned education systems has people who would care less about exposing their hatred, racism and bigotry shamelessly.
One of these reactions to the attempted suicide was published in Sakari Timonen’s blog:
“Are there any interested persons ready to carry out a group hanging of asylum seekers [uses a derogatory term]? Since the euthanasia [bill] has moved forward [in parliament], we’re not in danger of being sentenced [for committing such crimes]. We could also burn them but I need a sponsor since, after paying taxes, I don’t have enough money to buy enough gasoline for the task. It could also be a French-style guillotine lynching, which would be triggered by pulling a rope [and then letting go of it]. SE (Suomi Ensin/Finland First far-right group) or any other one could organize a theme evening next to the [Helsinki Railway] square about these execution methods. There could also be a big plaque where it would read and promise that when you die you’ll be with 72 virgins in heaven. What I write isn’t racist since I am only thinking of the asylum seekers’ best interest of leaving Finland for good, if they can leave. I don’t know.”
That Facebook post was published this week by a Finn in a backdrop of government silence.
While these types of comments show the sickness that inflicts Finnish society today, the complacency and leadership by politicians is so obvious that it is socially nauseating. Good examples are NCP Interior Minister Paula Risikko who met with protestors of the Suomi Ensi camp last month as did ardent Trump supporter MP Laura Huhtasaari of the PS.
Huhtasaari encouraged Suomi Ensi demonstrators to continue with their fight against Muslim hordes and complimented them as “patriots.” She assured them that Donald Trump and other far-right leaders like Marine Le Pen are the new normal sweeping Europe.
Risikko and Huhtasaari belong to parties that are members of Sipilä’s government.
Even if fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, pandering and hatred are the norm in today’s Finland, we are on a dangerous slippery slope.
The pyramid below offers us a good road map of where we’re heading.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”