Finland is slowly waking up to the humanitarian refugee crisis in Europe

by , under Enrique Tessieri

You know that President Sauli Niinistö said something wrong about the humanitarian refugee crisis in Europe if Perussuomalaiset (PS)* spokesperson Matti Putkonen quotes the head of state to reinforce his party’s xenophobic and anti-cultural diversity policies and stand.  

Putkonen quoted Niinistö’s statement on the “Years of Danger,” a period in the late-1940s when Finland was close to having a Communist coup, to describe the ongoing humanitarian refugee crisis in Europe, according to YLE in English.

The PS spokesperson said that those “Years of Danger” that Niinistö mentioned where for him “Months of Danger” to describe the present crisis, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

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Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has given in the past ambivalent statements concerning the refugee crisis in Europe and about our ever-growing culturally diverse society.

Niinistö was quoted as saying last month as well that “freedom of movement cannot mean uncontrollable movement.”

Other ambivalent statements by the head of state include a message sent by him on July 28 to the “I have a dream” demonstration in Helsinki, where some 15,000 people participated. He sent the event the following salutation:

“I hope that the ‘We have a dream’ event will guide public debate about immigration in the right direction.  What we need is dispassionate and fact-based discussion of the difficulties faced by both immigrants and the residents of the receiving country.”

Niinistö’s past statements raise more questions about his own opinions concerning our ever-growing culturally diverse society. It also encouraged some media to wrongly claim that there are today two extremes debating immigration and cultural diversity in Finland.

There aren’t two extremes but one anti-immigration extremist group telling us to abandon our Nordic values of social equality and treat non-white Finns and migrants with suspicion and disrespect. Are those who believe in our Nordic values and in our Constitution “extremists?”

Considering that President Niinistö has given ambivalent statements in the past about the refugee crisis, it’s a good matter that he has now stepped up to the plate and spoken in favor of Finland “accepting its responsibilities” in the humanitarian ordeal.

“I can’t understand that, when there’s a war somewhere creating a huge distress and refugees, that the refugees should cause a huge commotion in Finland or in Europe,” Niinistö was quoted as saying in YLE in English. “We have to control our attitudes and our feelings, and show that things don’t improve when we cause a bigger fuss.”

And what are we supposed to think about another message given by Finland’s foreign minister, Timo Soini, who told Finnish news agency STT that Europe should primarily provide refuge for Christian asylum seekers. 

Is Soini’s view that of the government’s or is it one of his latest ploys to score brownie points with voters?

Why hasn’t any politician, never mind the media, questioned Soini’s suggestion? If they looked at the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, Article 3 – Non-discrimination it reads: “The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.”

And then there’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä who has said publicly that it’s inappropriate to call refugees as “surfers”seeking a better life in Europe. Why hasn’t the prime minister taken a stronger stand against such inappropriate statements?

The answer is simple: It would mean the end of his government if the PS pulled out.

While the PS makes up new labels to denigrate refugees by calling them now “people who are striving to enter the country illegally”  from “illegal refugee,” it’s high time that at least the media and politicians spot these types of low punches by the anti-immigration party and tell them that such statements are unacceptable.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.