In memory of Eila Kännö

by , under All categories, Enrique

For those of you who had the opportunity to move to Finland in the 1970s or early 1980s, will certainly remember Eila Kännö, the head of the then-Aliens’ Office. Has anyone counted how many times the name of the immigration office has changed since the 1970s? I have lost track.

She was the epitome of keeping Finland “clean” of foreigners.  Kari, the late Helsingin Sanomat cartoonist, who was well known for his stance against immigrants in Finland, did a cartoon of Kännö.  She was depicted as a doorwoman standing guard in front of hordes or inhuman-looking foreigners attempting to enter the country. Helsingin Sanomat compared her style of rule with Benito Mussolini’s.

But her hard-line stance was her downfall. Kännö had threatened in an evening paper to throw the foreigners, who had staged the biggest demonstration ever in the early 1980s demanding greater rights, into jail because it was illegal for a non-Finn to organize a demonstration. There was a loophole: The Helsinki University Union student body organized the demonstration.

That demonstration was what probably brought Kännö down. The more hostile and reticent the Aliens’ Office became the more of a liability she became.  It’s incredible that some Finns and well-known journalists like Pekka Karhuvaara approved of her tough autocratic style.

One of the favorite arguments used by police authorities back then why Finland had to keep outsiders from living in Finland was because they were “potential criminals.” Incredulous, no?

We should never forget this bleak period and more should be written about it. Not for revenge but that such policy mistakes never occur again.

  1. paddy

    My Dear E,
    I like to think of myself as a liberal, but I’ve noticed lately things are never so clear cut.
    “Outsiders being potential criminals?”
    The only way I can comment on that is to say: should you tell me seven thousand Irish were coming to Mikkeli next week to bolster up the work force, I would immediately make plans to move.
    Within a short time ((((this work force would be in every business possible, and there would be another seven thousand unofficial Irish as soon as thing were set up)))) all business – criminal business included – would be run by Irish, and the sons there of slowly entering the police force like in America, even the Presidency wasn‘t safe. The Kennedy’s one of the biggest influential business (criminal) families in history.
    You know you really have to careful who you let under your roof, and you and I know it is easer to control your own house than it is to control what goes on it the city in “legitimate business.“
    I would call your attention to the Mexican, and south American mafia who grew from strength to strength in LA where they eventually controlled completely some parts (no-go-areas) of Cal.

    There are lots of good people, but it is even the “good foreigners” who also end up being the victims.
    The riots in France last year would be something else to focus on/study before you open you door in welcome.

  2. DeTant Blomhat

    What do you mean seven thousand, a few caravans already have caused such havoc and mayhem Lomalitto has banned the pikeys from all campsites in Finland. Tampere police is still wondering if a caged peacock is a game animal in Ireland.

  3. DeTant Blomhat

    “because it was illegal for a non-Finn to take part in a demonstration.”

    And why do you think it was so? How about educating yourself a bit on Finnish history. There was a good reason why the law was there, and still in the 1980’s it wasn’t totally obsolete.

    “such policy mistakes”
    As we can see from the influx of the beggars and the pikeys the only mistake was to give up those policies. Of course as your aim is to destroy Finland so of course you oppose any rights of self-determination.

  4. Enrique

    Hi DeTant, please tell me why it was illegal to take part in a demonstration in Finland? What surprised me the most about Finland at the time is that I thought that it was a model society (for the Finns, of course) that respected human rights. Human rights, however, was a hot political issue. Living next to a huge autocratic neighbor such as the former USSR, it wasn’t geopolitically correct to criticize its human rights policy. Do you still think that foreigners in Finland should not have the right to demonstrate?
    Come on, DeTant, you are being pessimistic again. It’s not all that way. We should not overkill the rest in our laws because of a minuscule minority.

  5. paddy

    Dear DeTant,
    A good slap in the head to wake yourself up. I am – you could say in a way – on your side.
    Seven thousand was a hypothetical figure. However.
    Let us not enter trailer trash slagging I started my life in a trailer, and I know this like very well. I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the park.
    I’m talking really about governments mismanagement of immigration, and then following that the inevitable rise of nationalist: “foreigners out – They’re all criminals, and taking our jobs.”
    That is such old hat, and a lazy mans view- who will not bother to educate himself, and rather stick to the same old tenets of nationalism idiocy. People with their knee-jerk reactions
    Why do people not see it is government (in every country) policies, and lack of proper regulation/law that cause the problems, and not the immigrants themselves.
    The Government is happy when the business community are prospering (and it matters not from whos sweat) from low paid income. It puts money in their coffers. They don’t care about Finnish workers rights, or immigrants working illegally on the black market.
    Nationalism should lobby their politicians, become fervently involved with unions to stamp out Finnish business (and business globally) rolling over their own citizens, and abusing foreign immigrants to make (them rich) a buck.
    If there was proper regulation for all, then one could not complain about the illegal activities of the foreigners. Except for …. You don’t like their color, or culture. Nobody would listen to that objection; in the end you know it holds no weight.
    …. To be con. …..

  6. Enrique

    Hi Paddy, you’ve made an interesting point about placing the blame on governments. The reason — in my opinion — why there is so much illegal immigration everywhere is because it DOES benefit the economy. Why pay a foreigner union wages when you can get him/her for a fraction of the cost? See the Mexicans in the US, the Bolivians in Spain… I agree with you also that one cannot generalize and use immigrants as a scapegoat to all of society’s real and imagined problems.

  7. DeTant Blomhat

    “Hi DeTant, please tell me why it was illegal to take part in a demonstration in Finland?”

    It was actually remnants of the 1920’s and 1930’s scare against the “Communist International” but also like the “investment and ownership” restrictions aimed to keep the nation safe from the grasp of the USSR. Of course there were foreign-owned and foreign companies in Finland. But the government regulated everything, so that for example nobody could compromise national security by getting into vital industries.

    Maybe a bit paranoid, but the foreigner clauses banning foreign nationals from forming associations without informing the police etc. were also aimed at keeping national security. Maybe now in the 2000’s the prospect of a coup machinated by foreign powers is a far-fetched idea, but the “cold war” was still hot in 1980 and the Berlin Wall stood high.

  8. DeTant Blomhat

    Yes Paddy, the problem is actually not only Finland. look at Ireland for example – they were caught pants down with the immigration influx and had to make some dramatic changes for example in the nationality law. Finland is also a similar “exit” country. Dealing with immigration is a “new thing”. I think the government has made a direction change, but it takes time. And if you don’t keep the rest of the population happy – that will result in the knee-jerk reactions. Right now theres getting a real heated debate because the police and officials seem to be inable to deal with foreign troublemakers then soon someone will take vigilante action and thats always bad.

  9. DeTant Blomhat

    “policies, and lack of proper regulation/law that cause the problems,”

    Or in some cases “too much regulation”. There wouldn’t be as much illegal immigrants if it was easier getting a “green card” or whatever. The system in some countries hasn’t been “designed” for a huge influx of immigrants, but the reality is then totally different.

    What I agree with Enrique is that it is far too easy to exploit an illegal immigrant than a resident.

  10. Enrique

    DeTant, I kind of suspected that could probably be the answer. So, we could say that Finland’s recently won independence in the 1920s and 1930s walked a very thin line. Even if what you say may be true, it is an interesting explanation how some become corrupted by such paranoia and the power that came with it. An example are refugee policy during the cold war. The idea that the Finnish government at the time (Kekkonen) would return many Soviet refugees back the Russia is an example. An office or government that acts in such a way acts like an autocratic power because it makes up the rules that it thinks suit it best. But one matter is for certain: Finns feared the Soviet Union and such concern was not unwarranted. But here again we see how autocratic power corrupts. Kekkonen took this fear in order to reap the maximum political control. There were no checks and balances. In the long term it’s a poor way to rule. But these are bits and pieces of cold war Finland.

  11. DeTant Blomhat

    Actually the recent thesis on the Finnish immigration policy 1812-1972 by Antero Leitzinger at the Turku University
    States that the then Aliens Office exchanged Soviet passports to Alien Passports in all quietness and the persons then would leave to Sweden or the West in general due to the pressure. And that there wasn’t an automatic “return agreement”. However the “political realities” being what they were, if the issue got public then the person most likely got sent back. I have the book of all “handed over” persons, a few interesting cases there, but the amount really is small – the border was quite secure on the USSR side. Actually Sweden was more keen on repatriating Soviets in the 1940’s and 1950’s than Finland.

  12. Enrique

    That’s a very interesting point you make. I know that the Swedes returned Estonians and Ingrians after the Second World War. I have a list by Amnesty International of some 10-20 cases of Soviet citizens being sent back. One of these is a Lithuanian, who was allegedly beaten by Finnish border guards. There is, however, only one case where Finland — thanks to pressure by Germany and the Untied States — where a Soviet citizen was given asylum but on the condition that he leave Finland.
    I have seen bits and pieces of Leitzinger’s thesis. It is very interesting.

  13. DeTant Blomhat

    Yes well Finland had no say of who was handed over to the USSR 1945-1947 when the “Allied Control Commission” was here and very little say before 1956 with the Porkkala base in artillery range of Helsinki. And a Lithuanian was an USSR citizen so that was case closed. But what is the problem – if the “good guys” won the war so why is it somehow bad to hand over people to the “good guys” ? Hindsight is 20/20, current political realities are always that.

    BTW the only thing that was really a “return agreement” was of airplane highjackers made after teh 1977 highjacking that caused a huge political crisis, and then people caught “within the Border Zone” were in a different jurisdiction and according to the border treaty got sent back.

  14. Enrique

    The Lithuanian, or Soviet citizen, was Cherepanov (spelling?). Do you think there was an underground railroad in Lapland where trickles of Soviet citizens traveled to Sweden? How many do you think crossed Finland to Sweden? Hundreds, thousands, maybe? Has anyone written about this comprehensively?
    I like your sense of humor, De Tant, especially the comment about handing over a Soviet citizen to the “good guys” in Russia. Since the former USSR was a workers’ paradise, these people were sent to insane asylums.