Immigrants that look down on other immigrants

by , under Enrique

The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

William Blake

Some immigrants who have lived in Finland for many decades have adapted so well to this country that even their prejudices and stereotypes are just like those of the locals. Some, like Alain Chiaroni or Freddy Van Wonterghem, however, go beyond the call of duty to give Africans and visible minorities lessons on how they should integrate into Finnish society. 

What unites Chiaroni and Van Wanterghem other than they are both Perussuomalaiset (PS) party members? Answer: Their reactive views on cultural diversity and visible immigrants like Muslims and Africans.

At least Van Wonterghem, a native of Belgium, has failed miserably on the integration front. He got slapped in March with a 420-euro fine for inciting ethnic hatred against a group.

Despite having lived for 38 years in a foreign country, Chiaroni sounds like a nineteenth-century colonial master from France when he speaks of Somalis and Africans living in Finland.

“You could only get citizenship [in the late-1970s] if you had a sound background, a good education, a job in Finland, had Finnish- language skills, ties to Finland, were well-integrated into Finnish society, had two influential persons recommended you [for citizenship], etc…”, he writes in an Uusi Suomi blog entry.

He continues by stating that certain “political circles” in Finland are of the opinion that our country must adapt completely to those immigrants who move here.

“Has Finland lost its common sense?” he asks.

What Chiaroni forgets to ask is a more important question:  Why Finland had so few foreigners in the 1970s and why there was so little foreign investment in the country?

By around 1980, the biggest “foreign” group living in Finland were Swedes, who were mostly Finns that were naturalized Swedish citizens. In the 1970s, Finland’s foreign population totaled a mere 7,000 souls.

Moreover, Finland did everything possible to restrict foreign investment with the help of the Restricting Act of 1939.

Would I want to live in a country where foreigners, black people and visible immigrants were a rarity and where outside investment was the exception as opposed to the rule?

No thanks.

I like how Finland looks today with all its defects. It’s a million times better than in the Cold War years, when  your otherness followed you around like a shadow that marked you for the rest of your days.


  1. JusticeDemon

    I hadn’t seen Chiaroni’s blog before, but it’s interesting in many ways.

    The blog banner is a rather unfortunate display of ignorance:

    Tosiasioiden tunnustaminen on viisauden alku

    Firstly, the French rationalist philosopher René Descartes (who was also an immigrant, incidentally) certainly did not say anything like this. The closest Cartesian remark is his famous “Dubium sapientiae initium”, which introduces the key notion of Cartesian doubt and is rather the opposite of the Chiaroni blog banner.

    Secondly, the quote in Finnish is standardly attributed to statesman JK Paasikivi. Indeed these words appear on the Paasikivi monument “East and West” in downtown Helsinki.

    Chiaroni’s written Finnish is also interesting. One finite verb coupled in each clause with a strong grammatical subject. This is what happens when you use Finnish words to express ideas that have already been formulated in a Western European language.

    More than half of the text of this blog entry is taken up by a long list of job titles, which we are evidently not meant to read with any care. Anyone who does so will find that the names of government committees are also job titles and that at least one of those jobs corresponds to the function that processed Chiaroni’s residence permit and citizenship applications. The Director of the Finnish Institute of Migration may also be surprised to find himself on this list of undesirables, given that the principal thrust of the Institute’s work is to study emigration from Finland to other countries.

    As is par for the course in PS blogs, this one is again very long on ill-informed comment and very short on substance. The rules governing expulsion from Finland are somehow bad, even though PS has offered no concrete proposals on how they could be improved, nor has this party shown that any specific decision not to expel a foreigner was legally incorrect. This is like complaining that the Finnish national soccer team is badly selected and coached without having the faintest idea about which potential squad members might do a better job or what changes in training and tactics might be more effective. Indeed without having much idea of what the game is about. Pining for the days of the 1958 Aliens Decree and the amply demonstrated incompetence of the Kännö administration is like insisting that the national soccer team should play in the park using a beach ball with overcoats for goalposts.

    The main general change in immigration and naturalisation procedures since the late 1970s has been an assertion of parliamentary control, transparency and the rule of law. These elements were conspicuously absent in 1978. Indeed Eila Kännö has come to personify the arbitrary and capricious character of this branch of public administration before Finland adopted its first Aliens Act in 1984.

  2. D4R

    Enrique this absolutely true. I was reading yesterday metro newspaper and i stumbled across P.S members candiditates, to my surprise there were many P.S foreigners, this got me shocked becus P.S are notoriously well known for being against immigrants coming to Finland. I came only to one conclusion, these people must be publicity stunt by P.S to show the rest of us that they’re not againats immigrants when trully they’re. Also the immigrants in P.S party were asians and we’ll know that many racist here in Finland are generouse to asian but not to black africans.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      What you saw, D4R, doesn’t surprise me. Just because a person is a foreigner doesn’t mean that he is against racism. Some foreigners can harbor more racist ideas than the “locals.” Even if the PS has immigrant candidates, have you found any blacks? Some of their candidates are from countries like Romania and China, both are not shining examples of tolerance.

      In every group and country there are all types.