Is Finland swapping Nordic values like social equality for social inequality?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEP Liisa Jaakonsaari gives a good interview to Helsingin Sanomat about the government’s 80-point plan to tighten immigration policy that not only targets asylum seekers but impacts negatively the whole migrant and minority community of Finland. 

According to Jaakonsaari, 70 of the 80 points in the government’s plan has the stamp of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party. If this is the case, no wonder Finland is having difficulty in focusing on more pressing matters like jump-starting economic growth and creating jobs.

Like the SDP MEP correctly pointed out, the big picture of the new policy is clear: Asylum seekers shouldn’t come to Finland because they’re not welcome.

Imagine, we already have an underclass of people in this country that are so disenfranchised that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government can even propose, with a poker face, shelving indefinitely their basic civil and human rights. This is happening in a country that takes seriously human rights and brags about social equality.

Migrant Tales wrote recently:

The government now hopes with the 80-point plan to not only make life difficult for asylum seekers, and in turn for all migrants and minorities in this country, but introduce policy changes that are unconstitutional. PS Social Welfare Minister Hanna Mäntylä has been eager to lower subsidies to asylum seekers that get a residence permit.

Asylum-seekers, migrants, and minorities aren’t the only one’s feeling the brunt of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government, which is comprised by the PS, Center Party and National Coalition Party. Finns who are pensioners, unemployed and rely on social welfare are the target of massive social welfare cuts that will make their lives harder.

Jaakonsaari said that giving a temporary residence permit to those that get asylum in Finland is a good example of PS anti-immigration ideology. Even if it wasn’t pointed out in the Helsingin Sanomat interview, the idea to offer temporary residence permits comes from Norway, where the anti-immigration populist Progress Party (FrP) shares power with Conservative Party (Høyre). 

The Finnish media hasn’t for some reason connect the dots, but nationalist-populist parties in the Nordic region are following each other’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policies on how to tighten and make life as hard as possible for asylum seekers and their respective migrant communities.

What’s the solution? There is none except that as long as the PS are in government, the anti-immigration climate in Finland will not improve but get worse. Hostility against migrants and cultural diversity is what makes the PS tick politically.

Don’t expect anything to improve in the short-run either.

Massive spending cuts by the government and tighter immigration policy will encourage migrants and refugees to compete and fight against each other and against poor Finns for ever-meager resources. But mark my words: The more space that is given to the PS politically the more hostility there will be against asylum seekers, migrants and our ever-culturally diverse society.

Näyttökuva 2015-12-23 kello 9.02.19
Listen to full interview here.

Even if SDP leader Antti Rinne is quoted as saying that he backs and considers government plans to tighten immigration policy “a very good idea,” such a stance is a big mistake. We saw this type of mimicking of the PS in 2011 with poor consequences for the Social Democrats.

The SDP should not mimick the PS but show leadership in finding credible and effective solutions. One of these is to wake up to the fact that the days of integrating people for years and not tackling problems like discrimination are crucial. If we don’t find ways of making people a part of society it will end up costing taxpayers and arm and a leg.

What’s going on today isn’t that we’re demoting officially migrants and minorities in Finland to second- or third-class citizens, but a project by the government and other interests to restructure and change the face of the social welfare state for good. Asylum seekers and migrants are only one phase of that project.

Despite the dreary situation, these years should be seen as an important watershed where we chose either to defend or ditch our Nordic values.

I’m confident and hopeful that Finland will choose the former.

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.

  1. Yossie

    “If we don’t find ways of making people a part of society it will end up costing taxpayers and arm and a leg.”

    I´m happy we can agree on this. The difference with you and “anti-immigration” people however is that we do not believe certain people can be easily made productive part of the society. That is why we don’t want uneducated and illiterate immigrants. This is no 1800 century America, this 2015 Finland, where we have need for skilled people.

    Then, what comes for asylum seekers subsidies, human rights don’t make you treat citizens and non-citizens the same. We are under no obligation to give them same welfare that Finnish citizens get. Even more, among Finnish citizens we have special groups that don’t get the same amount of welfare. People doing military service don’t get the same amount than rest of us, even though they are made to work for it! Students don’t get the same amount but are expected to take loans if they can’t make it!

    The reason for temporary residence permit for refugees is only sensible. They have right to stay here because their own country is in not safe for them. Then why on earth should they still have right to stay here if later on their own country is safe again? Nothing of course stops these refugees getting an education or a job to change their residence permit. So the change actually encourages people to integrate our society rather than relying on welfare and refugee residence permit.

    You keep telling how budget cuts hurt those living on welfare. Of course it hurts, but what other choice we have? You seem to think its the purely a matter of will if we can have welfare state or not. The fact is that in last 7 years the public debt has doubled. We have tried the way of taking loans up until now. Is your plan that we just keep borrowing money until we end up like Greece?

    Lastly, I find it amusing that you are so concerned about government creating jobs when at the same time you keep telling us how we need more immigrants. For what we need immigrants now? To add them to the long list of already unemployed people?

    *Does this get blocked too?*