How the Finnish police fuel mistrust and erode credibility with migrants and ethnic minorities

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The Finnish police servicer held a seminar on Wednesday on migrant surveillance.  NGOs like Stop Deportations and Refugees Welcome expressed outrage and published some PowerPoint slides shown at the seminar by the Helsinki Police department responsible for immigration matters. 

Sanna Valtonen of the Refugees Welcome NGO expressed dismay with the material used by the police to depict migrants and asylum seekers.

“My first reaction was disbelief,” she said. “No NGO present at the seminar reacted to these slides except for us [Stop Deportations and Refugees Welcome].”

Ethnic profiling is illegal in Finland but the seminar shows that the police still don’t get it and persist in having antiquated and racist views of migrants and minorities.

Linda Hyökki wrote in a story published today in Migrant Tales: “Police inspector Heli Aaltonen showed a tasteless series of PowerPointe slides representing the ‘most common’ [ethnic traits of its] customers.”

Even if Aaltonen’s presentation aimed at being funny, it fell flat on its face because of the slides’ racist depiction of people of different backgrounds.

Aaltonen’s attitude shows a common problem when white people like her want to try out their sense of humor at the cost of migrants and ethnic minorities.

Go here to read some of the racist depictions of different migrant groups.

Hyökki writes about Aaltonen’s PowerPoint slide presentation: “The depictions were bluntly racist, enforcing stereotypes of immigrants from different backgrounds such as Russians/Estonians being alcoholics who live in illegal dorms and Africans being drug dealers. Moreover, they were also drawing from anti-Muslim discourses that have become – apparently widely accepted even within institutional contexts –hence offering the perfect proof for what we can call structural Islamophobia:

‘Timo’: from Somalia; married to three wives; drinks alcohol occasionally; has come to Finland after his wife [wife has a Finnish citizenship and used family reunification to get Timo to the country]; divorced his wife after receiving residency permit; after his divorce, Timo used family reunification to get his other wife to Finland; Timo’s third wife has been brought to Finland by using the identity of the first wife; has children with all three wives.”

Rainer Hiltunen of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman office was quoted as saying in Helsinki Uutiset that the job of the police is to build trust with ethnic minorities.

“I have such an understanding that the top management fo the police understands clearly the importance of trust,” he said. “Many people belonging to minority groups come from such backgrounds were the police isn’t trusted.”


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