Finland is a country swept once again off its feet by xenophobia

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Watching the parliamentary question-and-answer session between the opposition and government revealed two matters: the opposition’s xenophobic politicking and the government’s sometimes infirm responses.

The debate between the opposition and the government occasionally appears like a shouting match, where the government caves into the opposition.

In a historic government decision on the same day, Finland closed its border to Russian tourists.

If one was to state, in a nutshell, the hostile diatribes of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), and Christian Democrat MPs Thursday, it was to tar and feather Russians, asylum seekers from outside the EU, and undocumented migrants.

PS MP Jari Ronkainen parrots his party’s fear-mongering: “Fleeing military service is not grounds for asylum. If it were, up to 20 million Russians would theoretically be entitled to asylum. Despite this, the minister of interior [Kirsta Mikkonen] said yesterday that they are preparing at the border for an influx of asylum seekers and setting up processing centers. For potentially millions?”

The PS, which wants Finland to implement a zero asylum seeker policy, sees the passage of the national border act as an instrument toward such a goal.

“A visa on humanitarian grounds allows a person from Russia or any other country to apply in practice for asylum without even coming to the border of the country,” said PS chairperson Riikka Purra, “and this raises the same security concerns as the right to apply for asylum at the moment.”

Purra favors shutting the Finnish border to Russians even if there is no threat.

Sounding the same shut-the-border-to-Russians tune, Kokoomus MP Kai Mykkänen suggested two options to deal with the Russians. One of these was building reception centers with long processing times or putting into force the national border act that permits, under emergency circumstances, Finland to shut the border.

Amid the fear-mongering and xenophobia circulating the session, Prime Minister Sanna Marin stressed that the government does take the threats seriously and reiterated that Finland is a democracy that works under the rule of law, not the political whims of politicians.

“We base our decisions and the government’s actions, of course, on the legal framework, which may sometimes appear rigid in the eyes of the citizens and the debate in this chamber,” said Marin. But that is how we operate in a constitutional state.”

The threats, bravado, and victimization of non-white Finns are a blow to trust. How can I trust politicians who want to tar and feather me? How can I trust the media and other institutions like the justice system if they are partial and see me as an eternal enemy?

The Ukrainian war is a tragedy, but part of its collateral damage is migrants and minorities used as political cannon fodder by politicians like the PS and Kokoomus.

Has the national media written about how this toxic dialogue affects Finland’s largest Russian-speaking community? Very little to nothing. What about their children at school? How are they treated?

We should do everything to expose and speak out against these types of opportunistic double standards.

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