How Finland’s immigration and asylum policy turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde

by , under Enrique Tessieri, W. Che

It’s clear that Finland’s immigration policy towards asylum seeker moves from one blunder to the next. Under Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government immigration policy has been inefficient, expensive and, most importantly, inhumane and against our Nordic values.  

Where else could you read about a prime minister offering his home in September 2015 to asylum seekers and then making an about-turn in policy by turning these people into thousands of undocumented migrants? It is like a scene from the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


This cartoon by Rabah Boussuira appeared in Strange Days, a book published in 1984 about Finland’s tough stand against migrants.

Populism is nothing more than offering simple answers to complex problems. This is why populist parties and politicians fail and let down their voters. They don’t have any sensible answers never mind a clue.

The Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party is an unfortunate example of how populism and fascism have today a foothold in Finnish politics. They also stand to suffer a stinging defeat in the municipal elections of April 9.

What would happen if support for the PS fell below 10% from 12.3% in the previous municipal elections? Will such a poor election result encourage them to ditch the government?

The PS’ exit could mean a shift in Finland’s strict immigration policy but this depends on which parties make up the next government.

The only parties that could cause a decisive shift in immigration policy are the Greens, Left Alliance, and Swedish People’s Party. The Social Democrats are a big question mark.

Exposing inefficiency and ignorance

If the 38,133 asylum seekers that came to Finland in 2015 and 2016 exposed our expensive and inefficient immigration policy, the government and the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) reinforced what we’ve known and suspected for a long time: Finland isn’t a very friendly place for foreigners, especially if they aren’t white and Christians.

Immigration policy under Prime Minister Sipilä’s government has toughened considerably. In over a year, family reunification guidelines have tightened, appeal times shortened, even getting a residence permit on humanitarian grounds is no longer possible.

If the surge in undocumented migrants is the government’s doing and thanks to the support of the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, does Prime Minister Sipilä have a plan “b?”

It’s clear that in the first half of the year, Finland is not only going to see a surge in undocumented migrants but on our streets homeless, hungry, without money and even proof of identity.What about if these destitute turn to crime in order to sleep in a warm bed and a get a hot meal in jail?

Finland will not be able to deport thousands of Iraqi nationals back to their country because there is no repatriation treaty or memorandum of understanding with Baghdad. It has, however, deported a few on commercial flights.

Looking at the bleak situation of asylum seekers, and especially those from Iraq, is this the way a country like Finland, which is built on Nordic values such as fairness and social equality, treats people in need like asylum seekers? Are we ready to forfeit our respect for human rights in order to deal with asylum seekers?

What makes the present situation even more untenable and outrageous is that those policies of the government and state are in many respects political. As mentioned, Finland holds municipal elections about three months from now and the government parties are betting that their tough stance towards asylum seekers will be rewarded at the ballot box.

We hope that those parties that have made the lives of asylum seekers and that of the most vulnerable sectors of our society like single mothers and the unemployed will suffer a stinging defeat in April.

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. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”