KOTOUTUMINEN #14: Disseminate and vanish

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Remember back in the 1990s when Finland brought Vietnamese refugees and dispersed them like pepper throughout Finland? It appeared back then that the main goal of the migration authorities was to disseminate newcomers and make them vanish.

One matter that this type of coercive assimilation aimed at doing was to ensure that these Vietnamese boat people would not form communities. By not enabling them to form strong communities, white Finland was ensured.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Image1-53_edited-1.jpg
Finns living together in a house in Colonia Finlandesa, Argentina. Source: Olavi Lähteenmäki, “Colonia Finlandesa – Uuden Suomen perustaminen Argentiinaan 1900-luvun alussa”

Even today, you will hear, as I did this week, complaints by some municipal politicians that “too many migrants live in one area of the city.”

“Why don’t they disperse them and force them to live elsewhere?” one of the persons in the room asked. “They try to but then they always want to return [to where they lived].”

Not accepting cultural diversity shows how difficult it is for some to share public spaces and accept that Finland has changed. Instead of trying to sweep these people under the rug and pretend that their communities do not exist, why not accept them as an integral part of our society? Aren’t they the new face of Finland?

I wonder what such Finns I heard this week believe is an effective path towards inclusion. Apart from being too simplistic and revealing racist attitudes, such policies would never work.

And what about the hundreds of thousands off Finns that emigrated to other lands? Many stuck together, formed associations and groups, newspapers to defend their culture and lives in their new homeland.

The same thing that migrant and minority communities are doing today.

See also:

*Kotoutiminen is the Finnish term for integration. It came about in the late-1990s because there was no such term in the Finnish language.