The high social and economic cost of xenophobia and doing very little about it

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As Finland faces an ever-worsening labor shortage due to the greying of its population, the number of EU nationals that want to work in Finland has taken a nosedive, according to Seura.

The number of EU nationals that were granted work permits in 2018 totaled 4,179, which is a 28.1% fall from 5,699 in 2015, according to the Finnish Immigration Service. In 2017, 4001 EU nationals were granted work permits. The corresponding figure for 2016 was 5,247.

EU labor stats look bleak for 2019, as well. During the first six months of the year, 1,744 work permits were granted, which suggests that the total number for 2019 will be below 4,000.

Go directly to the Finnish Immigration Service website here.

So what gives?

Even if the article in Seura doesn’t mention it, have you ever heard of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party? They have, with the help of other mainstream parties and institutional racism, spearheaded during this decade the hostile environment against migrants and asylum seekers.

As a small indication of the PS’ Islamophobia, all of their MEP candidates agree that migrants crossing the Mediterranean should not be rescued by the EU and allowed to drown.

The PS is Finland’s second-biggest party in parliament. Why would anyone want to move and work in a country that has a largely unchallenged racist party spreading hatred against migrants? Moreover, in such an environment, institutional racism, bigotry, and discrimination are normalized.

Many studies that reinforce a social ill like racism in Finland. One of these is a 2018 study by the European Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) that reveals that a third of people of African descent (PAD) surveyed have experienced racial harassment in the last five years. Muslims are another group that is frequently targeted by Islamophobic groups, according to the European Islamophobia Report 2018.

Everyone is an accomplice in the hostile environment: the media, police, and public servants. Very little is done to challenge this hostile environment because it runs against the norm. Despite the situation, there is an ever-growing growing number of people who are standing up to the hostile environment.

If one tries to understand the ongoing debate about migrants and migration to Finland, there is one matter that dominates it: asylum seekers, which account for about 10% of all migrants in Finland. The party dominating this debate is the PS.

Labeling and victimizing a group like asylum seekers impacts the whole migrant community, even if you are a white EU citizen because it reinforces social ills like racism.

While the PS is clearly today a far-right Islamophobic party, other mainstream parties like the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Center Party, Christian Democrats, and others want to play political ball with them.

Moreover, Prime Minister Antti Rinne’s government appears to get cold feet in challenging the misconceptions and racism that the PS spreads.

All that this cowardice does is to make Finland an unattractive country for skilled EU labor. If you are “a person of foreign origin,” code for non-EU citizen and/or person of color, you would have to be pretty desperate to come to such an unfriendly country where suspicion is the norm.

The xenophobia that grips Finland today is like shooting its economic and social wellbeing in the leg. If we do not wake up in time to challenge parties like the PS and other groups like them, we will have nothing but ourselves to blame for our impoverishment and limited democracy.

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

Kotoutuminen #3: To touch or not to touch

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Many times I wonder where people who work and assist asylum seekers and migrants get their cultural training. If you are a teacher, is it stated, for example, in the national curriculum, how cultural diversity is supposed to work in the classroom? If you are a social worker, how do you promote two-way adaption?

These are important questions. If we do not deal with them properly, our integration program, which claims to be a two-way process, is nothing more than assimilation (one-way adaption).

Another big challenge is the lack of proper oversight. Which body ensures that our teaching or guidance isn’t racist?

After many years of studying and observing integration policies and practices in Finland, I have yet to understand what two-way integration means in practice.

While there are teachers and culturally sensitive social workers who are a source of inspiration to some newcomers, there are still too many poor examples around.

These poor examples of cultural insensitivity and fueled by exceptionalism only serve to confuse and relegate migrants to take their roles as second-class members of society.

KOTOUTUMINEN #3

Below are four cases that are good examples of a toxic brew: disrespect for other cultures, Finnish exceptionalism, and white privilege.

Case 1: We are sitting at a table with middle-aged Muslim women who wear hijabs (veils). A counselor, who assists and counsels these people, comes to greet them and touches one woman on the shoulder. Those who work with Muslims understand that men do not touch women if the person isn’t his father or brother. Even so, it is the woman who decides if she wants to shake you hand or not.

Case 2: I was told that another counselor mocks a Muslim for noticing that pork was cooked in the same oven he was going to make food. Instead of expressing some understanding for the Muslim’s concern, the worker stated that the state that pays his social welfare eats pork so he’ better get used to it.

Case 3: On planning earlier this year a seminar on hate crime, a social worker brings up the topic of gay rights, which is important. All hate crimes, irrespective of their motives are important to debate publicly. However, the social worker insisted and showed more preference for hate crimes against gays because she probably believes that Muslims are homophobic. Some are, some aren’t. Ninety percent of all hate crimes in 2017 are due to a person’s ethnic or religious background compared with 4.9% due to sexual orientation.

Case 4: Muslims, who are still trying to make sense of their new home country, are given the usual tasa-arvo treatment that “in Finland, women have equal rights.” True in many respects and commendable, but they forget to tell them that our country is one of the most violent in the EU against women. While it is a good matter that women work and become independent, a person has a right to chose his or her lifestyle. If the person stays at home and takes care of her children, wears a hijab, or is an avid Muslim worshipper, these are the person’s personal choices and should be respected.

By forcing our culture and our exceptionalism on migrants, we do nothing more than retard the process of making such people active members of society.

See also:

Dos fotos y unos recuerdos de mi amigo de colimba, Marcelo Zlotgwiazda

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Con tristeza leí sobre la muerte de Marcelo Zlotgwiazda en Página 12 de su amigo y colega, José Natanson. Yo me acuerdo de “Zloto” cuando hicimos la conscripción militar durante un época muy comprometida, durante la dictadura de Jorge Rafael Videla.

Fue en la Contaduría General del Ejército, en la calle porteña de Piedras 141, donde hicimos la colimba juntos y formamos parte del mismo grupo de guardia, donde él era escribano.

Aunque nunca hablamos de política, eso época triste y vil de nuestra historia le habrá humillado tanto a él como a mí. No es el propósito de volverse indiferente al sufrimiento e injusticia que vimos en 1977-1978, sino despertarse y luchar contra ella.

Escribe Natanson: “Desde sus primeros pasos en el periodismo profesional tras recibirse de economista en la UBA, Marcelo Zlotgwiazda defendió –en sus notas, sus libros y sus editoriales en radio y televisión– la idea de una sociedad más justa, con más oportunidades, menos cruel con los pobres y los excluidos.” 

Natanson también habla de que al “Zloto” tenía una gran pasión por el basquet. En las dos fotos de abajo, tomadas en 1977 o 1978, jugamos en el mismo equipo. Marcelo era un muy buen jugador, ágil y rápido.

El equipo de basquet de la Contaduría General del Ejército después de ser coronado campeones. Zlotogwiada agachado en la primera fila a la izquierda.
Atrás de la foto lee: “Esta fotografía fue un sufrimiento.” Ganamos el campeonato pero casi terminamos a las trompadas con el equipo perdedor. Zlotgwiazda es el número 10 y yo el número 4.

Estas dos fotos guardan una pequeña historia que a Marcelo le hubiera gustado ver y recordar.

Que descanses en poder, Marcelo.

Dedicated to the “let them drown” MEP candidates of Finland

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Islamophobes and other racists believe that those they victimize have short memories. Wrong. We remember and will do everything for our children and grandchildren to remember their viciousness.

Migrant Tales published a shameful list of Finnish MEP candidates who answered an Alma Media election compass question: “Is it the obligation of the EU to save all those migrants who attempt to come to Europe and who are at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean?”

Believe it or not, 36% of the candidates (85/234) answered that the EU had no obligation or had no opinion in saving people drowning in the Mediterranean.

The child asks where is Europe and the mother replies, at the bottom of the sea. Source: Facebook. Thank you Xur Piñera Alonso for the heads-up.

The party where 100% of the candidates agreed that people should be allowed to drown in the Mediterranean were from the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party.

Even so, Henna Virkkunen of the National Coalition Party, a party that claims to uphold human rights, “disagreed” that the EU should save people from drowning in the Mediterranean.

The first vice president, Riikka Purra, reiterated this recently at a session of parliament stating that the EU should not save people from drowning because otherwise, it would be a pull factor.

MEP candidates:

Perussuomalaiset

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

SIMO GRÖNROOS
TEUVO HAKKARAINEN
ILPO HELTOMOINEN 
LAURA HUHTASAARI
ASSERI KINNUNEN
LAURA KORPINEN
OLLI KOTRO

MAURI PELTOKANGAS
MIKA RAATIKAINEN
MIRA NIEMINEN
SAMULI SIBAKOFF
SEBASTIAN TYNKKYNEN
TANJA VAHVELAINEN 
MATTI VIREN 

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

ARTO LUUKKANEN
MINNA REIJONEN
PIRKKO RUOHONEN-LERNER

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

KARRI OLLILA
MINNA PARTANEN

National Coalition Party

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

PIIA KURKI

I DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

HENNA VIRKKUNEN
LEENA ZITTLING
JYRKI KOIVIKKO
KIMMO SASI
SAMI YLI-RAHNASTO

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

EIJA-RIITA KORHOLA
JANIKA TAKATALO
MATILDA AF HÄLLSTRÖM

Center Party

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

NONE

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

JANNE KAISANLAHTI
ANNINA RUOTTU
PETRA SCHULZE STEINEN
ANNA SIRKIÄ

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

MIIKKAEL AZAIZE
RAUL KAJAK
OLLI NYBERG

Christian Democrats

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

None

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

MIKA EBELING
ESA ERÄVALO
KITTI KUMPULAINEN

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

SARI ESSAYAH

Social Democratic Party

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

None

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

NIKO ESKELINEN

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

None

Swedish People’s Party

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

None

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

FILIP HAMO-DROTZ

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

FILIP BJÖRKLÖF
MARTIN NORRGÅRD
MAX SCHULMAN

Left Alliance and Green League

TOTALLY DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN, IT’S THEIR PROBLEM)

None

DISAGREE (LET THEM DROWN)

None

NO OPINION (I DON’T HAVE AN OPINION IF PEOPLE DROWN IN THE MEDITERRANEAN)

None

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

The MV-lehti case should be made into an important watershed against hate speech

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Former Islamophobic and pro-Putin MV-lehti editor Ilja Janitskin, who was sentenced in October to 22 months in prison on 16 criminal convictions, is hoping to reserve charges against him, according to Yle News.

Janitskin, who was MV-lehti editor between 2014-2018, denies responsibility for the numerous defamation and ethnic agitation cases brought against him.

Writes Yle News: “Some 90 criminal complaints related to the sites were filed in connection with the original case, including aggravated defamation [ordered to pay 136,000 euros in damages] and ethnic agitation, as well as copyright infringement, breach of confidentiality, illicit gambling and illicit fundraising.”

New charges were brought against Janitskin. One of these is from former Social Democrat student association Sonk chairperson, Hanna Huumonen, who was viciously attacked by social media lynch mobs for campaigning successfully against advertisers in 2016 to stop placing ads in MV-lehti.

Watch the interview (in Finnish) here.

“It became serious when I got personal messages, SMS messages, phone calls,” said Huumonen. “My phone was rendered useless [from the many calls and messages].”

She said in another interview that she could not use her phone even to call 112 because it was constantly flooded with calls and messages.

While Google was the source of the ads, some of these in the racist online publication were from Nokian renkaat, Volvo, Markantalo, and Stockmann, according to Journalisti.

While it is a very positive matter that publications like MV-lehti are brought to justice and forced to pay for their crimes, one rightly may ask why it took the police and the authorities such a long time.

The publication of a recent study about hate speech tells us how online publications like MV-lehti and their followers harass and threaten politicians, but the question that arises is if the police and authorities are doing enough to challenge hate speech.

According to Green League MP Iris Suomela, of the hundreds of thousands of rape cases in Finland, 50,000 are reported annually to Victim Support Finland (RIKU). Of these, the police record about 1,200 sexual assault cases, of which around 200 get to a court.

Just like a sexual harassment case will most likely never see the light of a court, is it the same situation for hate speech?

According to the justice ministry, ethnic agitation cases that were taken to court in 2018 numbered a mere 31, up 138.5% from 13 the previous year.

In light of the ongoing MV-lehti case and the worrying rise of hate speech in our society, the police and the authorities should do much more to ensure that people and minorities don’t get harassed by fanatics and closet extremists.

They should not use MV-lehti as a case and treat other hate speech cases with kid gloves because they lack the resources.

Finland must take a much tougher stand against hate speech and all forms of racism.

PS MP Ville Tavio is a good example of how hazardous Islamophobia is to one’s perception

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I once had the opportunity to write a rebuttal in the Helsinki Times to Perussuomalaiset (PS)* parliamentary group leader Ville Tavio. In his usual far-right fiery language, he suggested outright that Finland must treat migrants as second-class members of society.

He suggested in an op-ed piece in  Uusi Suomi that the Finnish Constitution should be amended to give Finns priority over foreigners.

Tavio has had many racist outbursts before. His most recent one was a parliamentary question asking why Muslim women should be allowed to use burkinis at public swimming halls. He now sounds the alarm that millions of asylum seekers will soon stream to Europe as a result of Turkey’s military action in Syria.

He tweets: “Turkey is threatening to spark a new immigration crisis. If the [mass] migration of people begins, is the Finnish army ready this time to stop foreign hordes at the border? What does defense minister @anttikaikkonen say? The fate of the nation rests on this question.”

Excuse me, Tavio, are you suggesting that we should start to deploy the army at our border because you are apparently hallucinating asylum seekers coming from the Middle East?

Are you ok?

Has the poison of Islamophobia kicked in?

Preview(opens in a new tab)

Ville Tavio’s Facebook wall: “Be a brave Finn.” Be brave and hate Muslims and asylum seekers is what he is really saying.

Tavio is a lawyer and he should supposedly know better and how to choose his words.

Believe it or not, he is a product of Finland’s world-class education system.

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

Kotoutuminen #2: A tool of white fragility to rule you

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Migrant Tales launches a new series called kotoutuminen, or integration. Readers are encouraged to send their personal experiences, comments on integration programs, and policies.

Send your comments and observations to editor@migranttales.net

KOTOUTUMINEN #2

Kotoutuminen, or integration, functions in many ways like white fragility. It is a weapon and tool to subjugate newcomers and migrants who have lived in Finland for a long time.

Robin Diangelo describes as white fragility in her best-selling book, “White Fragility.” She states that most white people “are absolutely not receptive to finding out their impact on other people.” She also mentions that the reaction caused by white fragility is nothing fragile but hostile.

A good example of how even governments use kotoutuminen as a tool to control people is their hysterical and politically opportunistic response to the sexual assault cases of Oulu.

In this particular case, the former government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä blamed the integration program for the sexual assault cases. Then Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen even threatened to give newcomers tests to determine if they are a danger to society.

Any sensible person can see that these types of political soundbites were made for public consumption before the April parliamentary elections. Aren’t people innocent before they are proven guilty? Isn’t Mykkänen’s disregard for this human right worrying?

The use of integration programs to control migrants is another example of why such programs face challenges.

See also:

Kotoutuminen #1: A good synonym for kotoutuminen is too many times the reinforcement of structural racism

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Migrant Tales launches a new series called kotoutuminen, or integration. Readers are encouraged to send their personal experiences, comments on integration programs, and policies.

Send your comments and observations to editor@migranttales.net

KOTOUTUMINEN #1

A suitable synonym for kotoutuminen is structural racism. In the process of integrating into Finnish society, newcomers are rarely taught the racism and discrimination they may face and, importantly, how to challenge such social ills.

Here is a good example of how stereotypes and prejudices of Finnish culture are taught to students at some integration classes. Yes, believe it or not, these types of silly cartoons are shown to newcomers to help them understand Finnish culture. Aren’t they learning to understand the cartoonist’s prejudices and stereotypes? The cartoonist is Karolina Korhonen.

In other words, kotoutuminen is another form of reinforcing structural racism and also Finnish exceptionalism. You are taught about how you are expected to adapt but never how to challenge those structures that may relegate you to second-class members of society.

The situation is further muddled that such classes or courses are usually taught by unqualified teachers who lack the tools to question their own prejudices and racism.