By Enrique Tessieri
I made a call to a Somali friend over the weekend who told me about a rumor that a young nineteen-year-old countryman had been killed in Helsinki over the weekend. While we could not confirm if the story was true and hope that it is only a rumor it does show the fear that some Somalis live under in this country.
The Somalis are no small community in Finland. In 2010-11 they were a 6,593-strong community, the fourth-largest in this country, after the Estonians, Russians and Swedes.
Since the Somalis came to Finland as refugees in the early 1990s, very little has been done never mind accomplished to further the acceptance of this community in Finland. The interest of some politicians in the Somalis has been purely for political purposes and the lack of interest of their plight by the media have led to the present unfortunate state of affairs.
Migrant Tales asked almost a year ago if Finland was a safe place to live for non-whites. If we take a group like the Somalis, there is a big question mark. Moreover, if we put into context the violent deaths that three Muslims faced in a span of about three weeks this year the question mark becomes an even bigger one.
Despite the fears expressed by Muslims and Somalis in Finland, it is unacceptable that the police service has not apparently done enough to assure some visible immigrants that it is safe to walk the streets of a big city like Helsinki and surroundings. A statement made by a policeman in charge of the death of a Somali youth in Espoo is a case in point in shoddy public relations. He blamed the Somalis for spreading racial hatred with their rumors.
Twenty-five years in the journalism business have taught me that rumors only arise when the message by a government institution or a company is poorly executed or unclear.
We should ask the policeman who blamed the Somalis for spreading rumors if his statement does anything to reassure the Somali community that they have nothing to fear and that the police serves them in the same way as white Finns?
The fear that some Somalis fear in Finland is real. This has been pointed out by a EU study.
“I have become very paranoid in Finland,” said a Somali native, who has lived most of his life in this country. “When the Perussuomalaiset won the election [last year] things got as bad as they did in the early 1990s, when we heard almost every two weeks of some attack against us…In the end of the 1990s things started to get better.”
“I don’t like to go out [these days] because I fear that a complete stranger could attack me,” he continued. “I am very paranoid.”