Hitting refugees below the belt

by , under Enrique Tessieri

I talked to a group of students from different national backgrounds today. Two things unite them: they are mostly Muslims and present or past asylum seekers in Finland.

While Europe is opening its arms to 2.809 million refugees from Ukraine since Sunday, according to the UNHCR, the two sets of rules for refugees reveal how little Europe has done to tackle racism.

In November, Finnish politicians talked about constructing a razor-wire fence on the border with Russia to keep keep out asylum seekers from crossing the Polish Belarus border.

Even if our insincerity, or hypocrisy, is upsetting to some of us, it has riled some asylum seekers who have waited for seven years to get a residence permit in Finland.

How do you tell such a person why Ukrainians are granted automatic residence permits, work permits and access to social welfare? Will you be sincere and tell them what James Baldwin said below?



Despite our understanding of the problem, there must be a lot of resentment among those asylum seekers who have waited for up to seven years for their residence permits.

“Imagine, when I came to Finland seven years ago, nobody gave me any clothes or help like the Ukrainians are getting now,” said one asylum seeker. “Never mind free bus rides and all this preferential treatment. It gets me so angry!”

Another asylum seeker alleged that Ukrainian refugees at the reception center don’t have to clean like other asylum seekers weekly.

While we should strive to help all refugees irrespective of their backgrounds, political opposition to granting residence permits to up undocumented migrants in Finland is shameful. With one hand, we show our best human side, while with the other, we show the worst of ourselves.

It is like Dr. Jykyll and Mr. Hyde. We turn to Mr. Hydes when we talk about treating refugees from outside the EU who are Muslims or from African countries.

Shame on us!