Saido Mohamed: How much good will is there in Finland for asylum seekers?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

In the early 1990s Finland was in the midst of one of its worst recessions in a century, when unemployment rocketed to about 20%. The number of migrants back then was relatively small totaling in 1992 a mere 37,642 and accounting for only 0.7% of the total population.

Today Finland has been in a recession for four consecutive years and the migrant population was 301,524 at the end of 2013, accounting for 3.8% of the total population. Unemployment in July was 8.4%.

During 1990 and 1995 the Somali community in Finland rose from 44 to 4,044. While these numbers may appear small, they were significant taking into account the country’s foreign population.

The mix of recession and asylum seekers brought out the worst in some Finns. All one had to do at the time was to read the tabloid billboards or look at Kari’s cartoons in Helsingin Sanomat, which would never be published today because of their racist nature.

The first time I got death threats by phone as a journalist was when I published in the early 1990s a two-page spread for Apu magazine about a refugee center in Mikkeli that had Somalis.

One of those Somalis that came to Finland in the early 1990s is Saido Mohamed, who chairs the Finnish Somalia Network.

SaidoMohamed-3Saido Mohammed.

She believes that times have changed since the 1990s. The Finnish Immigration Service and the police have more experience in handling refugees today than over two decades ago.

“I want to thank Finland for everything it has done for me and helped me build a home here,” she said. “I have a duty to Finland and these people to ensure that everything works out as smoothly as possible.”

Saido said that she is concerned about the political atmosphere in Finland and even considered it “scary.” 

“Some politicians,” she continued, “especially from the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party, are taking advantage of the situation and fueling anti-immigration sentiment.” 

The chair of the Finnish Somalia Netowork is, however, hopeful.

“The Finnish government should take seriously the present situation and I expect that they are,” she continued. “Today almost 1,000 asylum seekers came to Finland.”

According to Saido, xenophobic rhetoric doesn’t help migrants and minorities to feel at home and undermines, instead of promotes, integration.  

“When politicians speak of migrants in such a demeaning manner, some migrants feel that they are not welcome in this country,” she continued. “They feel excluded and some exclude themselves.”

“Some of those politicians that are taking advantage of the situation are from the Perussuomalaisiet party,” Saido said. “They include [Olli] Immonen, [Jussi] Halla-aho, who has asked Finland to close its borders [like Hungary], and Laura Huhtasaari, who suggested that asylum seekers should be sent to Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia.”

“One matter we mustn’t forget is that these refugees that come to Finland have lived in war zones for years,” she explained. “Some are traumatized and it’s not there fault that they are here. We have signed international [refugee] agreements and we must abide by them.”

Mohamed believes that the best way to deal with the ever-growing number of asylum seekers is to teach them the Finnish language and integrate them as fast as possible and permit them to work.

“Keeping them in limbo for up to three years without getting a residence permit doesn’t serve them or Finland,” she continued. “It’s important that they get their residence permits rapidly and are taught to stand on their feet.”

If PS politicians like Immonen, Halla-aho, Huhtasaari and even Timo Soini, who said recently that Finland should give priority to Christian refugees from the Middle East, have not shown leadership Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has.

“I raise my hat to Orpo for how he’s handled the situation,” Saido continued. “Even if I commend Prime Minister [Juha] Sipilä for offering his home to refugees, I would have wanted to see a more united stand by the whole government concerning the situation.”

Mohamed said that it is a good matter that many Finns haven’t given in to the xenophobic rhetoric.

“This is a clear change from how things were back in the early 1990s,” she concluded.

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.

 

  1. PS voter

    She must live in some kind of alternative reality. There is no way on earth Finland could take so high number of refugee seekers and provide the similar level of social security she has used to. 1000 persons a day means 365 0000 persons a year (you can compare it to the size of the Finnish population which is about 5,5 million), 1,8 million within 5 years, and with family reunification etc it is even much more than that. Social security system will collapse soon, if we aren’t soon able to reduce the numbers soon and send most of these people away. The size of population of Germany is about 15 times the population in Finland. If we multiple 365 000 by 15 to get the relative size of the number of refugee seekers coming to Finland, it would correspond to 5,5 million persons which is much more than even Germany with much better economy is receiving and about 10 times the number Germany has said to be ablo receive during few years.

    Almost all of the refugee seekers come from safe EU countries to Finland. We must start returning them back, just like Dublin regulation permits. And I would like to remind that war in itself, isn’t even grounds for getting refugee status according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. And they can move to safer location within their own coyntry. Somaliland is pretty safe by African standards, although the unemployment rates are very high. Unemployment and being poor aren’t grounds for getting refugee status.

    Either we start doing that and other measures to cut the number of refugee seekers coming to Finland or the social security system collapses and that causes therefugee seekers coming to Finland. After all, it is more or less impossible to survive in the winters without heated home and food. However, if the social security system collapses, it will mean the same fate even for the citizens of Finland. I would like to remind that only about 15-17 percent of persons from Ir aq or So ma lia are working in Finland and even that number of employment is during better economic times.

    I recommend everobody to think for short time about these numbers. The social security system of Finland is very fragile and just cannot handle this kind of numbers. And there isn’t enough free homes and building new ones is extremely expensive. Tell to your relatives and other persons in developing countries that there is no way for Finland to handle this kind of flood. In some way of other, it will be stopped. Treaties can be cancelled, without money it doesn’t matter what treaties say as there simple won’t be any money left, Finland has started tightening the rules (although not enough at the moment), Finland may have to call army to close the border, just like many other EU countries are doing at the moment etc.

    • Migrant Tales

      Certainly it can, PS Voter. Your just whining about the situation because you don’t want refugees coming to Finland. If you look at it historically, this is the third big influx of refugees to Finland. In the early 1920s we had some 8,000 Russians escape the Soviet Union from Kronstadt, Russia. Apart from refugees that came to Finland during World War 2, the second-biggest influx was in the early 1990s with the arrival of the Somalis. Now it’s mostly Iraqis.

      I have always been amazed by the negative attitude of decision-makers and some Finns to “foreigners” be it migrants or refugees. It’s like living in a self-fulfilling prophesy. Being geographically isolated from the rest of Europe after independence, living under the shadow of the Soviet Union during the cold war have only fed this self-fulfilling prophesy.

      That is why I am happy that asylum seekers are finding their way to Finland. Without them we’d shrivel up in our prejudices and suspicions and impoverish ourselves as a nation as we are doing now. We’re way behind Sweden in many things. One of these is long-term planing about the population. Racism, bigotry, fear and exclusive behavior are mortal to Finland.

      Instead of saying “we cannot afford it,” which is a PS argument, you should thank these people who are planning to make their homes here.

      If you want to squander this potential that’s your decision. I wouldn’t.

      Please update yourself about the Dublin Regulation. You got it wrong. http://blogit.image.fi/uuninpankkopoikasakutimonen/2015/09/27/dublinia-rautalangasta/

  2. PS voter

    She must live in some kind of alternative reality. There is no way on earth Finland could take so high number of refugee seekers and provide the similar level of social security she has used to. 1000 persons a day means 365 0000 persons a year (you can compare it to the size of the Finnish population which is about 5,5 million), 1,8 million within 5 years, and with family reunification etc it is even much more than that. Social security system will collapse soon, if we aren’t soon able to reduce the numbers soon and send most of these people away. The size of population of Germany is about 15 times the population in Finland. If we multiple 365 000 by 15 to get the relative size of the number of refugee seekers coming to Finland, it would correspond to 5,5 million persons which is much more than even Germany with much better economy is receiving and about 10 times the number Germany has said to be able to receive during few years.

    Almost all of the refugee seekers come from safe EU countries to Finland. We must start returning them back, just like Dublin regulation permits. And I would like to remind that war in itself, isn’t even grounds for getting refugee status according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. And they can move to safer location within their own country. So ma li land is pretty safe by African standards, although the unemployment rates are very high. Unemployment and being poor aren’t grounds for getting refugee status.

    Either we start doing that and other measures to cut the number of refugee seekers coming to Finland or the social security system collapses and that causes the refugee seekers to come to Finland. After all, it is more or less impossible to survive in the winters without heated home and food. However, if the social security system collapses, it will mean the same fate even for the citizens of Finland. I would like to remind that only about 15-17 percent of persons from Ir aq or So ma lia are working in Finland and even that number of employment is during better economic times.

    I recommend everybody to think for short time about these numbers. The social security system of Finland is very fragile and just cannot handle this kind of numbers. And there isn’t enough free homes and building new ones is extremely expensive. Tell to your relatives and other persons in developing countries that there is no way for Finland to handle this kind of flood. In some way of other, it will be stopped. Treaties can be cancelled, without money it doesn’t matter what treaties say as there simple won’t be any money left, Finland has started tightening the rules (although not enough at the moment), Finland may have to call army to close the border, just like many other EU countries are doing at the moment etc.

    • Migrant Tales

      PS Voter, how many refugees did Finland resettle after the war? Over 400,000 in war-ravaged and impoverished Finland.

      I disagree with your math. If 30,000 come this year that’s not even 10% of what Finland took in in 1944.

      Why don’t you just say I don’t want these people to come to Finland?

    • PS voter

      Enrique, why do you keep repeating the figure of 30 000 persons when it is obviously outdated information? This article by Saido quoted the current figures of about 1000 persons a day. This year has about 100 days left and with that speed during the rest of the year, there will be 100 000 persons from Tornio alone. And with the same speed during next year, about 365 000 persons will come, unless we make drastic moves to cut down the numbers of new refugee seekers. Even Matti Vanhanen, said recently that we should prepare for the arrival of 200 000 refugee seekers.

      And when you speak about 400 000 internal displaced persons in Finland, I would like to remind you that at that time the wasn’t the same kind social security system as nowadays. And they weren’t given home, but ordered to build their own homes in distant forests by themselves. And they had the required level of education, language skills etc. And it was one time event, not something that repeats each year, like with this current refugee seeker mass movement.

  3. BlandaUpp

    @PS voter
    Why is it that your party which claims to be anti-asylum seekers NEVER EVER says anything about the reason why these people are refugees in the first place? You’re in government and can say things about these subjects and oppose what these same forces are doing in the world today but NOT ONCE have you done so. All I hear from your ignorant leaders and followers on your various forums is Islam this Islam that. Well, who the hell is responsible for invading Iraq? Who is responsible for turning Somalia into a massive war zone? Ever watched Black Hawk Down? Who is responsible for supporting an Islamist uprising and destroying Libya? Who is responsible for funding, training and arming the Islamist minority “opposition” in Syria? Everyone agrees that we need to confront Islamism yet Western governments do the exact opposite. Forced regime change in the Middle East removes strong leaders who protect secularism and know how to keep Islamism in check. The so-called war on terror has created Islamist terrorists where there were none before and made the world a much worse place.

    Here’s some statistics I found on reddit a few days ago:

    Number of Suicide Bombings Around the World Surged 94% in 2014. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.635193

    In Iraq, there were zero suicide attacks in the country’s history until 2003 when America invaded. Since then, there have been 1,892.

    In Syria, there were zero suicide attacks in the country’s history prior to 2012.

    In Libya, there were zero suicide attacks in the country’s history prior to removing Gaddafi.

    In Pakistan, there was one suicide attack in the 14 years before 9/11. In the fourteen years since, there have been 486.

    Source for statistics: Suicide Attack Database http://cpostdata.uchicago.edu/search_new.php

    • PS voter

      Why is it that your party which claims to be anti-asylum seekers NEVER EVER says anything about the reason why these people are refugees in the first place?

      Just for the record, even though I feel that Perussuomalaiset is closest to my values (I certainly don’t agree with them on every issue), I have never been its member and in previous parliamentary elections I voted Kokoomus (the National Coalition Party of Finland) instead of Perussuomalaiset as Kokoomus has been the party that has showed the most interest towards applying for NATO membership. Having said that, even Kokoomus is not as positive towards applying for NATO membership as I wish and I do regret voting for Kokoomus as the handling of this refugee seekers situation by Petteri Orpo as the Minister of Interior has been extremely passive and disappointing and I feel his inactivity is endangering the future of this country. Before these elections I have voted Perussuomalaiset in several elections, but before that I have voted other parties and twice even candidates with immigrant/Muslim background.

      Having said that, I am pretty sure that members and supporters of Perussuomalaiset have said a lot why these people are refugee seekers which is not same thing as refugee. In fact, we have often emphasized that most most refugee seekers are not refugees and that even most of the ones who are granted right to stay in this country don’t have refugee status, but are given right to stay for example because of humanitarian protection or subsidiary protection. War for example, in itself is not grounds for getting refugee status according to the UN 1951 Refugee Convention.

      And of course, there very high number of scammers who try to get permanent right to stay in the country even though they aren’t entitled to it. Some of they manage to fake it, some don’t. For example, they recently almost all refugee seekers in Germany tried to claim that they were from Syria even though it was obvious from their looks, language etc that they were from Africa instead of Syria.

      And the immigration critical supporters of Perussuomalaiset (not all of the supporters of Perussuomalaiset are immigration critical) have been quite disappointed that the MPs and ministers of Perussuomalaiset have been far too muted in this issue and they should have forced minister Orpo to show more leadership and have more proactive and stricter way of handling the situation.

      Well, who the hell is responsible for invading Ir aq?

      At least not Finland nor Perussuomalaiset.

      Who is responsible for turning So ma lia into a massive war zone?

      Mostly So ma li ans by themselves and not Finland nor Perussuomalaiset.

      Ever watched Black Hawk Down?

      I think I have seen at least part of that movie, but I am not sure if I have seen the complete movie as the pro-American propaganda in the movie makes it repulsive for me to watch it. And having read how inappropriately So ma li ans were treated by the foreign troops in So ma lia in the real life, made it difficult for me to watch that kind of propaganda movie.

      Who is responsible for supporting an Islamist uprising and destroying Libya?

      Certainly not Finland nor Perussuomalaiset. Just for the record, I and
      probably most of the immigration critics I know, are quite negative
      towards that kind of regime changes and military interventions except in exceptional cases. I and typical immigration critics opposed from the beginning the displacing Gaddafi (and Saddam, Assad etc) and the propaganda that was used to justify attacking Libya as it was obvious that it would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Gaddafi wasn’t saint by any means, but his rule was still preferable to the chaos and the rise of jihadists that replaced his rule.

      And I can assure that I and typical immigration critics don’t support
      supporting ISIS or any other jihadists in order to replace the Assad
      regime (and I know very well that the supporters of those jihadists
      include US and some other western countries, many Sunni Muslim countries in near by and to some extend even Israel). We have seen it as mistake from the beginning. In fact, I support large scale military intervention against the diabolic ISIS (it is one of the few military interventions I support) and I think it should have been long time ago, before ISIS grew so large. But United States tried foolishly to use the expansion of ISIS as a extortion tool against Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Ir aq at the time. Nouri al-Maliki is not without blame, but to let ISIS expand like that, was very foolish and cynical (the speed of expansion probably caught the US off guard, which is something which may happen when you play with the fire).

      Forced regime change in the Middle East removes strong leaders who protect secularism and know how to keep Islamism in check.

      I agree with this and this is one of the main reasons why I oppose that kind of regime changes in Muslim countries even when the leaders aren’t exactly saint like figures. It is incredible naivety to think that removing them would lead to secular democracy which support human rights. While that kind of development might theory be possible in a Muslim country, it is quite unlikely and most likely it will lead either to Muslim fundamentalism or the rising of a new despot who is able to prevent the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. Democracies as well as social security systems are much fragile and much more difficult to establish as many people believe. And even countries that have managed to establish them, there are example of them collapsing.

      The so-called war on terror has created Islamist terrorists where there were none before and made the world a much worse place.

      I might support some kinds of wars against terrorists, but I have been against the kind of war against terror the US has had since the 911 attacks. Especially, attacking Ir aq was very foolish, inexcusable, illegal, very expensive etc. And I cannot understand who anybody could buy the kind of mumbo jumbo that was used to somehow “tie” Ir aq to those terror attacks and give reason to attack Ir aq.

    • Yossie

      BlandaUpp

      No mistake about it. George W. Bush was the worst president to be in office for 9/11. All his actions have made things worse. However, you blaming everything for Americans isn’t really honest. With your logic we could say everything after 9/11 is Osama bin Laden’s fault since he started it all.

      Yes, American’s invaded Iraq. Is it their fault that Iraqis started to fight each other instead of working together to build a rich and working country? You ignore all responsibility Iraqis have and just blame Americans.

      When it comes to Syria and Libya. It was the “Arab Spring”. Wave of uprising to bring the democracy to all those dictatorships. American’s never started anything there. What they did was support the uprisings so democracy could get a hold against the oppressing dictators that were killing their own people. That was the situation. What EU and US have always wanted to do is support the seculars and moderates, never islamists. Our fault has been that we have believed in these people to actually be like us and wanting democracy and freedom.

      Especially blaming Americans for So ma li a is outright lie. They had nothing to do with the civil war except for that black hawk down episode. Which ultimately made American’s unwilling to have anything more to do with the war.

  4. BlandaUpp

    @PS Voter
    > I am pretty sure that members and supporters of Perussuomalaiset have said a lot why these people are refugee seekers which is not same thing as refugee.

    The word is asylum seekers. A refugee is someone who is a successful asylum seeker. I would REALLY like some quotes from the PS about the causes of these refugees and any time they have OPPOSED the policies of countries who time after time destroy other countries.

    Everything I’ve seen from the PS since being in power is pandering to the Western agendas that are against Finland’s national interest from things like Ukraine sanctions, the TTIP agreement which screws our exporters that Halla-aho proudly supports. He was wonderfully exposed and grilled by the openly racist, homophobic, islamophobic, antisemetic “immigration critic” media that usually supports him for that http://magneettimedia.com/jussi-halla-aho-kannattaa-ttip-vapaakauppasopimusta/. More recently we’ve seen ridiculous statements from PS leaders like Laura Huhtasaari, who suggested that asylum seekers should be sent to Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia. Why the F doesn’t she suggest sending them to USA who are responsible for destroying that country? No Iraqis lived as refugees in Finland before USA invaded there. There are more Iraqi refugees in Malmö in Sweden that all the Iraqi refugees in USA put together! PS’ default setting seems to be “Blame Islam” without any perspective or context. Gaddafi’s prophecy that the Mediterranean ‘will become a sea of chaos’ has becoming a reality. Also recently Timo Soini suggested that we should only be taking Christian refugees. Syrian Christians aren’t running away from Assad, they’re escaping the Islamist extremists the US and their Saudi/Qatari allies are funding and training. As foreign minister, has he once said anything to oppose the destruction of secular Syrian society? What kind of Christian can be so ignorant of the teaching of Christianity?

    The US doesn’t care about Europe. They don’t need to deal with the refugees on OUR doorstep yet our leaders still blindly follow the US in every foreign policy move. There’s a long list of well documented horific things the US has done in other countries. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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