Like many anti-immigration politicians, even former National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero believes that there is some magic number that we shouldn’t cross concerning the number of asylum seekers that arrive to our country. In 2015, a record 32,000 asylum seekers came to Finland. How many arrive this year is an open question.
“I don’t believe that Finland could take in as many [asylum seekers] as last year,” Paatero was quoted as saying in Uusi Suomi. “I’m worried if this year 30,000 asylum seekers [arrive in Finland] and [even if] half of them get residence permits.”
Everyone will agree that Finland is a more affluent and developed country today than it was in 1944 when some 420,000 Karelian refugees were resettled after the war in Finland. Why didn’t such a large number of refugees destroy Finland back then?
The answer to the question is simple: If there is a will there is a way. Today there is no will for asylum seekers and, therefore, no way or solution except for near-continuous whining.
The impact of the Winter War (1939-40), Continuation War (1941-44) and Lapland War (1944-45), tens of thousands of Finnish deaths and the deep traumas left by war weren’t insurmountable obstacles in finding a solution to hundreds of thousands of Karelian refugees. Why are we then whining about a 32,000 asylum seekers today?
The question exposes the problem: We are an island in Europe where myths and fears like “the Russians are coming” have fed our mistaken nationalism for decades. Too many politicians and Finns don’t see it but our negative attitude towards everything that isn’t “Finnish” is hurting us as a society. We are paying a steep price for our xenophobia in the way of economic, social and political development.
We don’t need to look too far to understand the latter. Since 2011 we have seen the rise of a populist anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* whose only attribute is whining about migration and scapegoating such people. Considering that we are an island in Europe, should we be surprised that such a party has caught our imagination and attention?
Considering that we are an island in Europe, should we be surprised that such a party has caught our imagination and attention?
Not at all.
A good example of the political and moral quagmire that Finland finds itself today is the recent debate about whether anti-immigration and neo-Nazi street patrol gangs are wrong and should be banned.
It isn’t a surprise that the PS is the only party that hasn’t come out too publicly against such street gangs.
Neo-Nazi street gangs aren’t only a legal issue but a moral one as well. Is it acceptable that such gangs, whose members have criminal backgrounds, are given so much attention by the media and force politicians and the police service, who should know better, to vacillate with mixed statements on the issue?
Being wishy-washy about street gangs is a small example of how we have made bigotry and discrimination “normal” in our narrative of Others.
Just like Paatero says one thing and then says another is the exact problem of the moral quagmire we’re in. A classic example is when politicians, usually PS members, state that hate speech and racism are bad but don’t want to do anything to stop it.
Finland’s xenophobia will cost us dearly and at most be a Pyrrhic victory that will leave us impoverished and in worse shape morally than in 1944.
* 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.