At least for me, the debate on immigration on A-Talk on Thursday was a disappointment. The only sensible persons on the show were Anni Sinnemäki of the Greens and Jyrki Katainen of Kokoomus. The two opposition leaders, Jutta Urpilainen of the Social Democrats (SDP) and Timo Soini of the True Finns, were a disappointment spewing the usual hollow catchwords that reek of populism, protectionism and heavy doses of obnoxious nationalism.
One matter that came clear is that Urpilainen has a very superficial idea of immigration. On the one hand she vilifies the immigrant community in Finland by stating that they must follow the law (duh?!), but then claims to be for equality.
Why is the SDP leader making such no-brainer statements? Her aim appears to be to steal votes from the True Finns with the immigrant-bash card and thereby become the biggest party in Finland. If the SDP succeed in this dangerous game, anti-immigrant sentiment and life for the common non-Finn and their families will get much worse.
This will be a tragedy for Finland since we need to bring labor immigrants (not scare them away) to plug the labor gap left by an ever-large group of people retiring from the workforce during this decade.
I am just as confused as some of you. Maybe somebody should show the Constitution and Non-Discrimination Act to Urpilainen. Thanks to these laws, Finland permits as a democratic liberal society cultural diversity. We are not in the habit of ramming narrow-minded cultural habits down people’s throats.
Another statement that caught my eye was her criticism of foreigners she knew that had not learned to speak Finnish even though they had lived many years in the country. Certainly this is unfortunate but what are the causes? Lack of equal opportunities? Hostility by society? Racism? Lack of motivation? Attitudes like Urpilainen’s? Or a combination of all of the latter?
The Social Democratic stance on immigration is an unfortunate one. It looks like a house of cards that is maintained upright with the help of fear and populism.
The most disgraceful aspect of this type of populist rhetoric is that it does not help further a sense of community among immigrants and Finns but keeps alive old suspicions that fuel hatred.
And all this for the opportunitic goal of securing more votes in the 2011 parliamentary elections.