Finnish Anti-Immigrant Personalities of the Month (April): Jutta Urpilainen & Eero Heinäluoma

by , under All categories, Enrique

Migrant Tales will begin to bestow on a monthly basis the Anti-Immigrant Personality of the Month award.  Since we did not have one for the previous month, Migrant Tales has selected Social Democratic Party chairperson, Jutta Urpilainen and MP Eero Heinäluoma, as the Ant-Immigrant Personalities for the month of April.

Merits: With the stroke of a sentence in the end of March, “Love it (or leave it)” or “In Rome do as the Romans do” (maassa maan tavalla), Urplilainen converted the SDP into an anti-immigration party that flirts with the ultra-nationalist True Finns. Her right-hand man, Heinäluoma, seconded her rhetoric by stating in an HBL interview that immigrants will cause racism because they will take jobs away from Finns.

This dynamic duo has done more to fuel and maintain a climate of suspicion against immigrants in Finland than many hate speeches over the years.


Eero Heinäluoma (left) and Jutta Urpilainen (Source: Savon Sanomat/Lehtikuva).

  1. JusticeDemon

    Sometimes, Ricky, you really haven’t got a clue. Urpilainen was clearly commenting on the upcoming government bill to reform the Act on Immigrant Integration and Refugee Reception. This will finally introduce the amendments that immigrant representatives called for in committee work at the Ministry of Labour about five years ago.

    As I indicated before, it is unfortunate that Urpilainen did not consult the immigrants in her own party before issuing a policy statement on this sensitive area, but the underlying concern is quite genuine and you also share it: some immigrants, especially migrant workers and full-time homemakers, are effectively excluded from integration programmes. These immigrants must be given a chance to participate in society, and resources must be made available to ensure that this chance is meaningful.

  2. JusticeDemon

    Ricky, your translation of maassa maan tavalla is absurdly self-serving. This idiom literally translates as in a land by the custom of the land and is universally rendered when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The context in using this expression was Urpilainen’s observation concerning immigrants of many years’ standing who cannot communicate in Finnish or Swedish. This specifically relates to the upcoming legislative reform to which I referred. It was an oversight in my view not to explain at the time that these immigrants are excluded from formal integration programmes specifically because they have never been unemployed. The upcoming legislative reform derives from an initiative made by immigrants on the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations five years ago, and is designed to correct this anomaly.

    Everything else is negative media spin, and I am surprised that in your profession you failed to recognise this immediately.

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, “absurdly self-serving?” I wouldn’t say so. Check the whole saying: Maassa maan tavalla TAI MAASTA POIS. It depends on the last part of that famous saying. In the US the Vietnam War lobby had a saying: “America, love it or leave it,” which in my opinion is pretty close to the full saying. That was answered by: “America, love it or lose it.” Certainly “when in Rome do as the Romans do” is a “light, benefit-of-doubt” version but I believe it means the whole original saying: Maassa maan tavalla tai maasta pois, Love it (or leave it). That kind of a saying (short or original version) undermines cultural diversity in our society and is therefore totally unwelcome. It would be interesting to hear other readers’ view of how they would translate “maassa maan tavalla.” Fair enough?

  3. EvilFinn

    “Migrant Tales will begin to bestow on a monthly basis the Anti-Immigrant Personality of the Month award.”

    This isn’t clever. This is very distasteful. You are smarter than this.

    I don’t like the statements that Urpilainen and Heinäluoma makes but still I feel like this “Anti-Immigrant Personality of the Month award” is a step to the wrong way in the battle against racism.

    • Enrique

      Hi EvilFinn, what is distasteful: this post or vilifying immigrants in Finland? I am a small player in this game.

  4. JusticeDemon

    You are outraged by your own straw man here. Urpilainen did not say tai maasta pois, nor is there anything of this kind in the manifesto of her party.

    The context of the remark is quite clear to those who take the trouble to find it. Are you seriously suggesting that homemakers and other immigrants in full-time work should continue to be excluded from integration programmes in the name of cultural diversity?

    There is an important political reform going on here, and I prefer not to go into the reasons why this reform is happening only now and was not part of the original Laki maahanmuuttajien kotouttamisesta ja turvapaikanhakijoiden vastaanotosta enacted just over 11 years ago. Suffice it to say that we lobbied hard and planted the seeds back in the 90s, that the corporatist view has now loosened, and that the administrative system is gearing up for immigrant workers as opposed to migrant labour for the first time in the modern history of Finland.

    • Enrique

      No “straw man” in the argument. A politician like Juttilainen or Heinäluoma must take responsibility for the impact of their political message on the general population and what it means for minorities. For the sake of fairness, I will mention both translations: “In Rome do as the Romans do” and “Love it (or leave it).”
      Explain to me how, as you point out, people are excluded in the name of cultural diversity. I am a bit confused (maybe not) about what role do you see immigrants playing in Finnish society. Let’s begin from here, if you agree.

  5. JusticeDemon

    The context of Urpilainen’s remark was quite clear. She went on immediately to refer to immigrants who have lived in Finland for decades but cannot speak the language. Maassa maan tavalla meant speak Finnish (or Swedish) in Finland.

    Immigrants of this kind fall overwhelmingly into two groups: those who have been continually in full-time, professional employment (generally in higher education or large international businesses) and those who have been homemakers in immigrant families. These immigrant are excluded from the scope of official integration programmes. The upcoming proposal will not only abolish this exclusion, but envisages special measures (such as creche facilities and special peer groups) to encourage participation.

    I assume that you support this initiative, but please also be aware that it has its detractors. The proposal to extend integration programmes to all immigrants is not new, but it has been squelched in the past by a combination of powerful vested interests and the traditional view that there are no immigrants, only more or less temporary guests who should remain dependent on their hosts for as long as their sojourn continues.

    It’s also possible that you oppose this initiative on the grounds that immigrants have a right to remain in some expatriate bubble ignorant of the language and culture of the broad society in which they live. If that is your professed position, Ricky, then it occurs to me that you fail to exemplify it. Personally I think you are just confused by the rhetoric.

    You remarks on Heinäluoma are slightly more on target, as he has become a mouthpiece for the corporatist view that I outlined in another post. It’s probably fair to say that the SDP would not have pursued this line of reform (which began by abolishing the Ministry of Labour) and that immigrants may well enjoy a practical (though counterintuitive) boost precisely because the SDP is in opposition at the moment. Please note, however, that Heinäluoma’s recent remarks concern an entirely different area of legislation.

    • Enrique

      –The context of Urpilainen’s remark was quite clear. She went on immediately to refer to immigrants who have lived in Finland for decades but cannot speak the language. Maassa maan tavalla meant speak Finnish (or Swedish) in Finland.

      That was one part of it but there other part she spoke of circumcision and other factors. If you listened to what she said on A-talk, her attitude of people who did not speak Finnish was quite offensive. There are immigrants who live in a country for years and learn enough the local language to get by. Some don’t even learn to speak it. I personally think that it is a person’s choice not something that is imposed by somebody else if that person wants to learn the local language. Certainly it would be advantageous for anyone moving to a new country to learn the langauge and the custom. However, as long as there is a hostile climate towards immigrants integration programs will not work.

      The whole process is very easy in my opinion: jobs, jobs and jobs. Once you find your place in Finnish society by landing a job, you are on your way. However, many of us who came here decades ago have had to make our own jobs as entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals. This is fine but it is not an effective way of integrating into Finnish society.

      Our difference on Urpilainen is interpreting her message. You believe that her intention is probably a noble one while I think that it is closely linked to Heinäluoma’s message. One is a sort of good cop and the other is a bad cop. I have also spoken to some Social Democrats in the party, and they are as outraged as some of us over both of there statements. Even if Urpilainen had another message behind maassa maan tavalla, it was a poor slogan to welcome newcomers to Finland. I believe that the role of society is to offer opportunities and it is the right of the people to chose which of them suits them the best.

  6. JusticeDemon

    Firstly there is no question of compulsion, only of opportunity, but I’m curious to know whether you have ever met any immigrant (properly so understood) who would turn down a reasonable opportunity to participate in orientation events, courses and other arrangements that are intended to help immigrants to participate fully in society. I think you would automatically assume in such cases that the person concerned was not quite compos mentis or had been coerced in some way.

    Integration programmes quite evidently do work, and there are now many immigrants who have visibly benefited from them. Whether they achieve optimal and cost-effective results and the extent to which success is conditioned by social attitudes is another matter.

    The idea that landing a job solves the problem is old corporatist bullshit. If this were true, then we would not have the phenomenon of foreigners with long working careers in universities and high technology businesses who cannot put a single sentence of Finnish together confidently, name three Finnish authors or film directors, or formulate a reasoned opinion on which domestic political party they might vote for. It takes effort, encouragement and opportunity to move beyond the expatriate bubble.

    We had to lobby for broader access to integration programmes specifically because there were no migrant workers in Finland, only migrant labour. The only contribution that the corporatists wanted from foreigners was their labour input, and optimal resource allocation simply meant providing enough training to get the foreigner into a job. The aim was only ever to achieve a condition in which the foreigner gets by, because the foreigner was never expected to stay for ever. This is one of the cornerstones of traditional resistance to immigration policy, and you have evidently fallen for the bogus reasoning by which it was defended.

  7. EvilFinn

    Hi Enrique

    This post is distasteful (more accurately the anti-immigrant personality award is distasteful) but that’s just my opinion.

    Vilifying immigrants, the statements that Heinäluoma and Urpilainen are unfortunately making aren’t distasteful, they are dangerous. They do more damage than good.

    • Enrique

      EvilFinn, I respect your opinion. Maybe we should not fall into the same trap as these politicians.