Anti-refugee sentiment in Finland and politicians who capitalize on fear and racism

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A new survey by PEW Research Center shows that there is wide support in several EU countries for taking in refugees. The report shows that Spain is the most welcoming while Poland and Hungary are the least responsive. 

Another EU country in the survey, Italy, also scored far behind Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France, United Kingdom, and Greece.

As Finland holds its parliamentary elections in April 2019 and EU elections a month later, parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), Blue Reform,* and politicians of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) are eager to capitalize on anti-immigration sentiment.

And that is what is happening now after a massive police operation took place over the weekend and which led to the arrest of two suspects, an Estonian and Russian citizen, suspected of laundering money.

The arrest of the two foreigners, especially of the Russian citizen, has caused a Russophobic knee-jerk reaction from politicians of the PS, Blue Reform, Social Democrats and the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) to restrict the purchase of land from outside the EU and EEA.

MP Suna Kymäläinen of the Social Democratic Party, who got re-elected in 2015 thanks to her anti-Russian stance on real-estate purchases, reiterated her calls for tighter controls on non-EEA citizens. PS MP Tom Packalén, who has built a reputation on his anti-immigration views, said that parliament should speed up a law that would force non-EEA and EU citizens to get a special permission to buy land.

Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö said that the new law would grant the government the right to intervene in transactions that it sees jeopardizing national security.

Another result of Finland’s xenophobia is limiting the rights of dual citizens even if discrimination is prohibited in the Finnish constitution.

Read the original PEW study here.

As with Sweden, support for refugees in Finland must be in the same ballpark.

With politicians eager to use the xenophobic card to attract voters, this could not be done with the help of the Finnish media, which has failed to give balanced reporting on migrants, asylum seekers, minorities, and immigration.

Finland suffers today from historical amnesia. It has one of the most restrictive policies in the EU towards asylum seekers and it was only in 1992 that the country did away with the Restricting Act of 1939 (law 219/1939), which was a good example of the fear and suspicion that Finland had of outsiders.

The Act prohibited foreigners from owning real estate and acquiring a majority stake in Finnish companies—limiting this to 20% normally and 40% under special permission. The Restricting Act stipulated that foreigners could not own shares in sectors like forestry, securities trading, transportation, mining, real estate, and shipping. Foreigners weren’t allowed to own newspapers, never mind organize demonstrations and be politically active.

* The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity. One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic.

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.

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