By Enrique Tessieri
I’ve been following with disappointment the stories published in the Finnish media about the East European Romany minority beggars coming to Finland. If politicians don’t get it, it’s pretty clear that a part of the media never mind the public won’t either. Social ills like xenophobia, prejudice and racism are not “fixed” in a few days, months or years but take generations for the open wounds to heal.
Moreover, a great part of the Romany minority problem in Europe is not only due to these people, but to our own prejudices and racism that we have seen erupt recently in countries like Slovakia, Hungary and others.
So far we have two apparent political solutions in Finland on how to solve this so-called “problem:” One of them is to deport them out of Finland and another is to seek help from the Romanian authorities by sending a fact-finding mission to that country.
Let’s get serious for a moment folks. What we should be really doing is ask why an anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) has raised this issue and how the government is responding.
It’s pretty clear that the PS, worried about its poor standings in recent opinion polls, is using anti-Roma sentiment to lure disappointed voters back to its party. The government in turn has no choice but to be seen doing something as the PS attempt to raise this issue as a matter of national security.
But let’s try to understand the recent red-herring debate in parliament between the opposition PS and government. Why are we so concerned about these people coming to Finland? Is it our racism and loathing that reflects back on us when we see them begging? Is it our failure as a society to deal with our own Romany “problem?” Are we shocked to see that there are actually people in Europe who are poor and exploited?
In Finland we have about 10,000 people belonging to the Romany minority. Political parties have rarely if ever spoken up for them. If our handling of our own Romany minority problem is anything to go by, we are very far from finding any solutions to these people from Eastern Europe.
Another important question we should ask is how many people are we speaking of? Hundreds, thousands or maybe tens of thousands? Why don’t we have any ball-park figures? Is this the way politicians and the media victimize a group like the Roma and show them to be a bigger threat than they actually are?
One of the matters I’d recommend to all parties concerned in this country is that we should stop treating racism and social exclusion as something that we can fix instantly. No matter how much we try, the Romany minority problem will not go away tomorrow nor after tomorrow.
It will take a lot of time to solve and heal.
In order for us to do something effective in the meantime, we should take a totally different approach to the problem. We should start to look at our history and our own prejudices as part of the problem.