President Sauli Niinistö’s “ultimatum” to asylum seekers should apply to Finns as well

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The capacity to live with difference is…the coming question of the twenty-first century.
Stuart Hall
President Sauli Niinistö said Saturday during a YLE Radio 1 question-and-answer session that those asylum seekers that don’t abide by our core values should leave Finland.

“That’s the central issue,” said President Niinistö. “People who want to be here need to accept our core values: democracy, equality, human rights and all of that. If they don’t, they can’t stay in Finland.”

 Näyttökuva 2015-12-5 kello 23.14.22Read full story here.

While few will disagree with what he said, it’s unfortunate that we assume too many things about ourselves and the asylum seekers. When we place ourselves on a pedestal and compare ourselves ethnocentrically to Others we easily forget that we too are humans and have a lot of faults and much to learn.

The key to building a successful culturally and ethnically diverse society this century hinges on our Nordic values. In them rest values like social equality and human rights. In such values lies opportunity. Why wouldn’t anyone be in favor of such values that would include them as equal citizens?

But the problem doesn’t only lie in Others who come to Finland but in our society as well. Are we an inclusive society? Do we treat minorities equally? Do they have equal opportunities? What is the role of discrimination and racism in our society? Do we tackle such social ills or do we look the other way?

This cartoon expresses well how we treat difference in countries like Finland.

We have left a lot of incriminating evidence of how we see people who are different from us. One of these is how we classify them officially.

In Finland, a person’s ethnic or non-Finnish background is classified in the following manner: by nationality, place of birth and mother tongue. 

If you qualify for one of these groups, and even if you are a naturalized Finn, you are considered a person “with foreign” or “migrant background.”

When the police service, public officials, politicians, schools and the media label you a person with foreign or migrant background they are effectively telling you that you are an outsider. If you are an outsider you don’t have the same rights as a Finn, who is white, speaks Finnish as his or her mother tongue and was born in this country.

Does being labelled a person with foreign or migrant background (without even ever asking you if this is ok) make you an equal or unequal member of society? Do those labels promote or undermine social equality?

If Finns practiced what they preached, why is there a party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* and politicians in other parties who openly insult and aim that migrants and minorities be treated as second- and third-class citizens by society?

We have ministers like Hanna Mäntylä and Jari Lindström, both of the PS, who are planning to pass new laws that would be unconstitutional and would demote migrants to second- and third-class citizens.

Unfortunately, as we place ourselves on a pedestal and point out what is wrong with Others we easily fall into the trap of ethnocentrism.

In all cultures there are good and bad people. Cultures are made up of individuals and cultures change if given the opportunity, which is a key word to keep in mind.

Ultimatums and ethnocentric catchphrases don’t help in integrating Others into society. It only serves to remind them that they are outsiders.

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names 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. PS voter

    If we don’t limit one way or another the uncontrolled flood of migrants to this country, the welfare state will collapse. We simply do don’t have enough resources to provide the current standard of living to everybody who wants to come here from developing countries.

    Either we will in one way or another limit the the flood of immigrants or within some years the welfare state is history and we instead of it have huge debt burden and low level of living, just like the developing countries. I will rather save ourselves instead of trying to save so many persons that in the process we end up destroying ourselves.

    Limiting the welfare for the new immigrants is one way to try to limit this flood of immigrants. However, if we manage to cut the level of non-work related immigration to a tolerable level by some other means, then we can provide the same welfare for the limited number of new immigrants as well. I think that would be preferable, but as so many oppose this common sense solution, we have to use these other means to reduce the number of welfare refugees who abuse the asylum system and endanger the persons who would have more justified case for getting an asylum.

    • Migrant Tales

      The welfare state will not collapse because of the asylum seekers. It’ll collapse because we allowed it to. The influx of people coming to Finland, which is and has always been an island, forces us to look at more effective ways of integrating people. The present system is bankrupt because you cannot rob and expect people to wait years, in some cases 7 years, before they can knock on a potential employer’s door. The present system of exclusion and discrimination is costing Finland an arm and a leg. Integrate, employ and be more inclusive. That will save tax payers a lot of money.

    • PS voter

      No, the welfare state will collapse unless we limit the amount of non-work related immigration. Don’t you understand this fact even though it has been told by economists or don’t you just care about this? Or do you just want to deny the facts, because they are against your ideology? As a Finn I cannot accept the fact this country is being driven to economic collapse within short time by uncontrolled mass immigration from poor countries, driven by their wish to improve their own economic situation (if this wasn’t the reason for most of them to come here, they would have stopped at some of the several safe countries along to way here).

      Integration hasn’t worked anywhere where there has been welfare state and mass immigration. And it is shameful to try to blame Finns for the poor integration (it is like biting the hand that is trying to feed you), as these integration problems have happened in other countries as well — and the nationalities of the persons who tend to have the most problems of integration, tend to be same in all western countries. You don’t usually see complaints that persons from countries like Japan (or even poor Nepal) or western countries haven’t integrated well. Feel free to give counterexamples, if you think otherwise. It is totally unrealistic to expect the economy to be able cope with extremely large number of immigrants, when we have to provide social security to them and especially when they have very low level of education by local standards.

      What are you talking about, when you say: “The present system is bankrupt because you cannot rob and expect people to wait years, in some cases 7 years, before they can knock on a potential employer’s door”? If you are talking about asylum seekers, they are free to seek work after three months, but it is quite unrealistic that many of them would be able to get job, as there aren’t really that many available jobs, especially for persons with very low education and no Finnish skills. It is already quite hard for a native Finn to get job, as the economy is in quite bad shape, even when you speak perfect Finnish and have good education.

  2. PS voter

    Here is two examples of persons who seem to have tried to improve their standard of living or advancing their education with totally unrealistic plans instead of having good grounds for getting asylum:

    Irakilaisnainen kyllästyi vastaanottokeskukseen – palaa sairaan äitinsä luokse

    Turvapaikanhakija sai tarpeekseen: “Piti itse kantaa ruokakassit kaupasta vastaanottokeskukseen!”

    I would also argue that persons who dare to complain that the food doesn’t taste exactly like their favorite foods or that they don’t have luxurious enough place to sleep, aren’t really trying to escape death or other serious conditions. If they were, surely they would be more thankful and understand than even less than perfect conditions in safe place is something that they should be grateful. Especially considering how high the cost is to local taxpayers.

    • Migrant Tales

      I understand that “you are what you eat” but the reaction of some of the media was quite revealing. Just because a person is an asylum seeker doesn’t mean that you can feed him anything you want. You or I haven’t tasted the food that the asylum seekers were protesting. We have the resources to make people feel welcome also in the food department.

    • PS voter

      The food was in many cases same or even better than are given to all school students or persons who are in hospital. And we don’t have any obligation or even possibility to give exactly the kind of food they want.

      And in my opinion, in order to protect the core function of refugee system, we should provide only the bare minimum that is required by treaties, in order to discourage the welfare refugees. The welfare refugees are abusing of the system which was not meant to improve economic situation, but to save lives of persecuted persons. And this abuse will eventually lead to the collapse of the welfare state and/or refugee treaties, unless we quickly manage to stop this abuse.

      And if you read those examples that I sent to you, they were complaining even for the fact that weather was cold, they had to carry their own groceries from the shop themselves and one of them came in order to advance studies at the university. Apparently they though that there was red carpet waiting for them, ready university place for one them to study — probably in Arabic and to became a dentist, in order to move back to Middle-east, because she thought that it would be easier here. And the the other one of them, wanted to have western password, in order to make tourist travelling easier to her.

      In reality, becoming a dentist in Finland would have required many more years of extra work and would have been quite hard for foreigner, who doesn’t speak Finnish and who has to compete in the university entrance examination on a field, which has really tough competition because of the popularity of medical fields.

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi PS voter, “welfare refugee?” That’s a new one like illegal refugees. I disagree. People from different cultures have different diets. Muslims, like Jews, don’t eat pork.

      I don’t think this is a big issue. But yes, “you are what you eat” and therefore should be careful not to insult the host’s food. But why was this turned into such a big deal?

      I understand your points but you seem to have a very lowly view of these asylum seekers, which means that it would be difficult to find pathways to faster and more effective integration.

  3. PS voter

    That is a straw man argument as they weren’t offered pork. When I have been offered Arabic or African food I haven’t insulted anybody by saying that it is bad and that I want to have something else.

    One reason why the complaining caused a lot of attention was that it was really insulting against the generosity of Finns. And the fact that so many of them have said things that clearly show that their lives weren’t in danger, but that they were just trying to seek better standard of living:

    “If we don’t get to Germany, but to some other EU country, we will return to Syria.”

    “I though that in Finland studying would be be easier than in Iraq and the place to live in Finland would be more cozy and now I am bored and because of that I am now returning back to Iraq.”

    “I was shocked. I though that Norway would be more mordern and civilized. It was cold there. The food in Norway wasn’t organic or natural, I had to carry my own groceries. I wanted to have Norwegian passport, in order to to travel more. Everybody wants to have European passport, not just me. I have now noticed that we live luxurious live here in Dubai where I have returned. They don’t have any richness that we don’t have here in Dubai.”

    Even the interpreters for asylum seekers, who are originally from these areas, say that they have noticed that many of the asylum seekers lie (“Keksityt kertomukset ovat erikoisalaamme” – turvapaikanhakijoille kaupataan mukaan nyyhkytarinoita, Anne Ali-Hokka, 5.12.2015, YLE uutiset) and have trouble believing the stories. One of the interpreters said that: “I am embarrassed that some persons from my own former country cheat goodhearted and gullible Finns. That is unfair!” The interpreter doesn’t accept the fact that the refugee system is now being abused. The interpreter is also worried that in the current situation real refugees and persecuted persons might not get asylum because of these scammers.

    I don’t think there is much we can do to help make the integration much better. For two reasons: 1) Our economy couldn’t absorb so quickly so large numbers even if they spoke perfect Finnish and had extremely good levels of education, which is something most of these asylum seekers don’t have. 2) The problems of integration aren’t mainly caused by us, but by the migrants themselves. On average, they have very low level of education and now even more persons than before are even illiterate. And they don’t speak Finnish. Their culture and religion is not really that compatible with western way of life. This integration hasn’t really worked for these persons in any European countries and it is insulting blame us for their own problems. Maybe we could get marginally better results by spending extremely high numbers of money, but only marginally better and we really cannot afford to.

    And I have better insight to these things than most Finns. After all, I have lived years with a person who has come to Finland as a humanitarian immigrant. Trough him and some other persons in the same situation, I have learned much about these things. Many of these persons aren’t too happy that so many persons from their own or other poor countries have come to Finland by scamming and they are also afraid that the welfare state will end in Finland, because far too many persons are coming here.

    So let’s stop this uncontrolled mass immigration as we cannot afford it. Stopping it will also save money of many of these persons who waste a lot of money by giving it to human smugglers.

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