By Enrique Tessieri
Staying on the topic of urban myths, other ones that we could mention are: immigrants do not want to integrate, immigrants live off social welfare and are lazy. Politicians such as Angela Merkel and David Cameron reinforce these types of urban myths by pinning their countries’ integration policy failures unfairly on immigrants.
Any serious student of society knows that humans are social animals. Since we survive in groups, our main aim is to adapt. Some of us learn this skill better and faster than others.
Believing a stereotype like “immigrants live off welfare” is illogical. Why would people travel thousands of kilometers to live off social welfare?
Immigrants are ambitious people. Some are so determined to seek out opportunity and a better life that they are willing to sacrifice everything to start life anew in a new country.
If adaption is an important skill learned and reinforced during our childhood and formative years, what logic is there in not adapting to a new society?
In order for any integration program to be successful in Finland or elsewhere, it must have a clear vision of the role that newcomers and their children in the society. Is the host society hostile or receptive to them? Are newcomers and their children doomed to be eternal outsiders? Does society envisage a place for them?
In the same way that society creates pathways to integration for its own people, how well do they work for other groups? Are immigrants or the host society to blame, or both?
If we want to start on the right foot in Finland concerning our ambitious integration program, the first and foremost matter we should do is truly embrace cultural diversity as an important value.
Compared with the last century, Finland has made important progress on this front but a lot of work must be still done to weed out the ignorance and urban myths out there.
If we could get politicians to address proactively an issue relating to immigrants rather than pin the blame and failures “of multiculturalism,” we’d do our society a service rather than cause it harm.
The following words should always ring out when building our society in the new century: mutual acceptance, respect and equal opportunities.