Ask Finland’s Romany minority about ethnic profiling by the police

by , under Enrique

Two talk shows today, one on television and another one on radio, on ethnic profiling follows a report published Tuesday by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). Contrary to concerns by the ECRI, the police flatly deny in both shows that ethnic profiling takes place even if a policeman at the Helsinki Railway admitted that people are indiscriminately stopped because “they look foreign.”

Ethnic profiling, and denials that it even takes place, not only reveal how strong institutional racism is in Finland but how far the police will go in defending their right to carry out ethnic profiling of immigrants and visible minorities.

All those terms that serve to exonerate Finnish white privilege should be challenged. Why do you think people who were born here and have lived all their lives in this country are labeled “people with immigrant backgrounds?”  The aim of this label is to socially exclude non-whites as equal members of society and citizens.

What is a person with “immigrant background” anyway? Who decides if you have or don’t an immigrant background?

When the police divide the population into white Finns and “people who look like foreigners,” even if they are Finns, they are given a carte blanche to profile people indiscriminately on ethnic grounds.

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Watch television program here.

While it’s pretty clear that if the ECRI and Ombudsman for Minorities in Finland have expressed concern about ethnic profiling by the Finnish police, there must be something wrong.

Sadly, the whole debate concerning the issue of ethnic profiling in Finland points to denial by the authorities and Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, who is either covering up for the police or totally ignorant.

Both the police and Räsänen sound like Perussuomalaiset (PS) chairman Timo Soini playing down racism in his party.  It reflects how the police, one of the most conservative institutions in Finland, doesn’t want to acknowledge that we are today an ever-growing culturally diverse society as well as ignorance.

Maryan Abdulkarim, who was interviewed on television today with deputy Helsinki police chief Lasse Aapio, correctly pointed out that not all “foreign-looking” people are immigrants but Finns.

On the radio program, National Coalition Party MP Kari Toivonen, a former policeman who denied that ethnic profiling takes place systematically, reveals his ignorance by pointing out that a foreigner called him a racist because in his country women can be raped freely.

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Listen to radio program here.

If Toivonen believes this to be the case, it shows a tremendous amount of ignorance on his part and why ethnic profiling continues to take and why the police don’t get it. No culture or any religion accepts rape as something “normal.”

It’s pretty clear that the same arguments used to justify ethnic profiling of groups like the Romany minority in Finland in the past is being used against immigrants today. Whenever immigrants or non-white Finns are stopped by the police it’s because they are either undocumented or victims of human trafficking.

Instead of going around in circles and wasting years on debating whether ethnic profiling takes place or not, why isn’t Finland’s Romany minority asked its opinion on the matter? What they may tell you is extremely unsettling: Even if they have lived for about five centuries in Finland, ethnic profiling – never mind discrimination – still takes place.

US state department human rights report stated recently: ”Groups of Roma have lived in the country for centuries, and Roma are classified as a ’traditional ethnic minority’ in the ombudsman’s report. The Romany minority was the most frequent target of racially motivated discrimination, followed by Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami.”

Migrant Tales will ask members of Finland’s Romany minority for a future blog entry about ethnic profiling by the Finnish police.