As the European Parliament elections near in May 2014, the attacks against immigrants and visible minorities in Finland by the Perussuomalaiset (PS) are getting stronger and more relentless. The latest one is by none other then PS MP Olli Immonen, who gave parliament Wednesday a written question that Finland should start registering people according to their ethnic background.
PS’ chairman Timo Soini was silent about Immonen’s plans when approached by the Finnish media.
Soini continues to deny that there are racists in the populist party even if some of its members like MP Jussi Halla-aho have been sentenced for ethnic agitation.
Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Even if we speak in Finland of a society that prizes education and Nordic values, MP’s like Immonen show that the education they received at school and at home on racism was too little and deficient.
The term “race” is generally used in the US while “ethnic group” is used in Europe to mean the same thing. In the US, blacks consider themselves “a race” while some Hispanics refer to themselves as la raza, or “the race.”
According to Immonen, who is chairman of the ultra-nationalist anti-immigration Suomen Sisu association, ethnic classification of people in Finland is necessary due to its ever-growing cultural and ethnic diversity.
I personally believe it’s none of Immonen’s or the general public’s right to pry and classify me into a group they think I should belong to.
Immonen said that Finland could copy the same ethnic-classification system used in Britain. Some ethnic groups that people could be classified into are Finnish Finns, Finnish Swedes, Saame, Roma, other European, African, Asian, diverse ethnic background and other ethnic group, according to the PS MP.
Finland does classify people according to their nationality, mother tongue and place of birth.
Taking into account that race or ethnicity is a social construct to begin with, classifying people into groups is difficult especially in an age when we move and travel with greater ease from country to country and where we adopt complex multicultural identities.
To show how difficult it would be to classify people along ethnic lines, the system we use presently in Finland is fraught with problems. Nationality, mother or father tongue, place of birth don’t shed light on a person’s ethnic identity since that it a personal choice.
US American sociologist Yehudi Webster at the California State University, Los Angeles, believes that classifying people by race actually worsens racial strife.
“It is not ‘race’ but a practice of racial classification that bedevils the society,” he writes.
Writes the American Anthropological Society:
“In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.”
Countries like England and the United States, which classify people into ethnic groups, have a questionable history since both practiced slavery and had oversea colonies. Ethnic classification played a crucial role in enabling whites in these countries to exploit other groups by classifying members of their population into superior (whites) and inferiors (other groups).
From the mere grammatical fact that this is a polar question about the current content of government policy, we can see that its only real purpose is to call attention to itself and to the questioner. Like a small child in the back seat asking “are we there yet?”, Immonen is perfectly aware that the answer is “no”.
The short justification is that any such policy would be more trouble than it is worth, not least because it invites equivalents of the Jedi census phenomenon.
On the other hand, it is only relatively recently that Finland stopped granting immigration privileges based solely on ethnicity classifications used in the former Soviet Union. It is quite ironic that the outcome of this policy of selecting immigrants of “Finnish” ethnicity was a massive expansion of Finland’s ethnically distinct Russian-speaking minority community.
Issue with ‘immigration privileges’ is a bit different. Quite a few Ingrians (and presumably Izhorians as well) immigrated to Finland during the WW II. However after the war the Soviet Union demanded that all ‘citizens of Soviet Union’ must be returned regardless of their own volition. So Finns forcibly deported the Ingrians as part of the peace treaty. Given that Ingrian minority had been severely repressed in the Soviet Union both prior to and during war time it is not really that big of a surprise that they weren’t really keen on returning.
Outcome of resolving that issue, which has been called as ‘debt of honor’, is indeed rather ironic since after the Soviet repressions (and resettlement efforts) the Ingrian & Izhorian cultures & languages were pretty much gone. But that issue (ethnic selection) is not really in any way comparable to the this.
What Immonen suggested is something i certainly wouldn’t agree to. While I do understand some of the suggested benefits of such a registry from an organizational point of view i do not see such a tool to be of much use apart from furthering the segregation instead of encouraging the integration – that is I can understand classifying people according to language lines or in some cases even by location of birth so that the society (i.e. community or state) is able to accommodate the people living in it but i fail to see what ethnicity has to do with that.
But this is probably something the members belonging to some other ethnic group than ‘Finnish Finn’ (though I guess I’m borderline Swedish Finn) could answer better than i do. I see no outcome where the benefits of such a registry would outweigh the negative effects from it. Can some one else?
These excuses were aired at the time, but they obviously do not justify ethnic selection. The fact that certain individuals had a personal history of living in Finland in the 1940s and were subsequently resettled is a matter of public record, and the number of such individuals still living was quite small by 1990. Moreover at one stage the social welfare authorities in Finland were even alarmed at the prospect of accommodating a disproportionate number of elderly people choosing to exercise this right of return purely for the sake of higher standards of institutional care. The outcome of this alarm was a programme of special support for retirement homes in the Leningrad Region where most of these potential immigrants were living. This special individual history of a relatively small number of old people clearly did not justify establishing an ethnic preference contrary to Article 2 of the CERD treaty in the sense defined in paragraph 1 of Article 1.
It is interesting that you mention forcibly resettled Izhorians in this context, as the policy specifically did not extend to include them. This was clear from some residence permit refusals issued in the mid to late 1990s (“hakija ei ole inkerinsuomalainen vaan inkeröinen…” / “se, että hakija on aiemmin asunut Suomessa ei tarkoita…”). That rather takes the wind out of the sails of the “debt of honour” excuse (and excuse it certainly was).
The willful blind spot of most Finnish policymakers over the obvious ethnic discrimination involved in the Ingrian migration scheme was quite instructive to see at the time.
Real catch which you are missing is that Ingrians were not (under the laws) immigrants but instead expatriates. Given how they were extracted from Finland some (like the president at the time) had the opinion that they should be considered as such. Which places the issue quite apart from immigration. You can argue if it was fair to do take such actions but then you need to keep in mind that decisions leading to the ‘return’ of Ingrian expatriates were actually taken in 1940s under threat of military conflict – quite a bit before of the UN agreement you mentioned.
Reason why i mentioned the Izhorians was because i was aware that they faced far greater trouble than Ingrians. But then again I’m not sure that Izhorians were considered as being Finns (like Ingrians were) in the 1940s – which is the time period that needs to considered in this case.
Excuses of this kind were also given at the time, but saying something does not make it so. Finland already had clear rules on the immigration privileges of former Finnish citizens and their children born abroad. These rules were largely shaped by modern emigration from Finland, particularly to countries that refused dual citizenship (such as the USA), and the overriding aim was to minimise the paperwork involved in emigration and return. It was also standardly the case that these returnees had maintained active and meaningful ties with modern Finland (e.g. known living relatives and knowledge of language and culture).
The Ingrian programme was not of this kind. It was based specifically on the ethnic origin of certain applicants, as recorded in documents issued by Soviet authorities. The associated migration had occurred in the 17th century and in the modern era the people concerned were merely another ethnic group within the USSR. There is no reasonable way to stretch the expression “expatriate” over so many generations (about 300 years), and to do so for the purpose of extending legal privileges is clearly racial discrimination contrary to the CERD treaty that was ratified and transposed into national law by Finland in 1970.
You said yourself that the enforced “returns” of the 1940s specifically concerned USSR citizens, not individuals identified by membership of an ethnic group.
Actually it wasn’t based solely on ethnic origin. To be included in the program person – or his parents – had to actually have been one of the Ingrians who in 1940-1944 were in to Finland (so it was not some 300 years or so). Since at the time AFAIK they were understood as being Finns they in that sense had ‘Finnish nationality’. I’m not saying that it was right or wrong but you can not go utilizing laws and definitions – like CERD – which were set in place after the event to the event you are discussing about.
Enforced returns consisted of people whom the USSR considered as its citizens regardless of what the citizens themselves thought of the matter or of their possible alternate or multiple nationalities. If you want to blame some one for it, blame Stalin and USSR.
Now you are making things up. It’s pointless trying to lie about such matters when the relevant statutes are all publicly available in the Finlex database. The programme was targeted in general at people from the territory of the former USSR, and the principal specific criterion for inclusion was official documentation of Finnish ethnic extraction. In practice this meant an ethnicity entry in the internal pass book of the former Soviet citizen concerned, or of at least two grandparents of that person.
This is nationality in the specific sense of ethnic extraction, which is why the entire policy constituted racial discrimination in the sense of the CERD treaty.
As its name makes clear, the point of CERD is to eliminate racial discrimination. Your remark about this somehow being irrelevant to situations set in place before CERD was adopted is pure gobbledegook. What does “eliminate” mean, after all? By your reasoning no evil practice could ever be outlawed.
This is specifically how citizenship works, and it constitutes the cornerstone of all international border control, deportation and extradition. If you feel that governments should abandon this principle of national sovereignty and merely respect the citizenship that individuals choose, then we can cut short all immigration debate in Finland, as a mere personal declaration of Finnish citizenship given at the border will suffice.
Or perhaps you were merely trying to score a debating point in the minds of readers who are unable to distinguish between kansallisuus and kansalaisuus?
The inability of many Finns to distinguish between kansallisuus and kansalaisuus illustrates a more profound problem that is worth exploring in detail. Both of these expressions can be translated as nationality, but only the latter also means citizenship, i.e. the legal relationship of an individual to a political entity such as a State or commonwealth. Kansalaisuus (i.e. nationality in the sense of citizenship) standardly entails things like the right to a national passport for international travel, certain rights to political participation (such as voting and standing for office in parliamentary elections) and a customary obligation of a State to admit an individual arriving from abroad. Kansallisuus (i.e. nationality in the sense of ethnic extraction) entails none of these things.
There is no suggestion that the individuals targeted by the Ingrian immigration programme were already eligible to vote and stand for election in Finnish parliamentary elections, still less entitled to a passport issued by the Finnish State. Indeed it is absurd to operate a programme to issue residence permits to individuals who already have the right to reside. Instead the individuals in question were unquestionably foreigners, and we have to examine the grounds on which these particular foreigners were singled out for immigration privileges.
These privileges were granted on the basis of nationality in the other sense of ethnic extraction, and it is important to note that the only real record of this ethnic extraction in many cases was an ethnicity entry in the Soviet Union passport. This entry is described and explained in some detail in the text and footnotes here.
To put this into a modern context, suppose that Russia now introduced visa exemption for any Finns who could show that their ancestors in the 17th century (i.e. ten generations ago) had emigrated from Russia. When planning a booze cruise from Helsinki to St. Petersburg two neighbours from the same street who went to the same school, drink the same kossu, contribute to hommaforum and insist on their inalienable right to hate speech might suddenly discover that they differ in this single respect: one of them must apply for a visa while the other need not do so. At least in principle any dispute over the right to visa-free travel in such cases could be settled by a dna test (perhaps linking the individual to someone who fled abroad in the persecution that followed the Novgorod Uprising of 1650). This is what it means to use the ethnicity stamp in the old USSR passport as a justification for granting legal privileges.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) defines racial discrimination as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
Granting legal privileges to otherwise relevantly equivalent individuals based solely on who their remote ancestors were is self-evidently racial discrimination in this sense.
There was again a supposed rape report in Iltasanomat, where a secondary school girl claims that black man tried to rape her but she scaped out of the situation, according to IL there were no eye witnesses, only girls words is what evidence they have and IL didn’t hesitate to make a news out of it. What i don’t understand is, the supposed rapist isn’t caught yet and nobody has heard his say, how come they are so certain about it even occured? there were many similar reports where a girl or a woman lied about a rape situation just to fuel hateret towards black men, what if she were lying? this kind of journalism is really a suspect, they’re accusing a man who they havent caught yet, maybe doesnt exist, but reporting his skin color could be any young looking black men like me who’re living in this country, can’t they wait before they catch him and then report? why is Iltalehti and Iltasanomat always report these suspect incidents where there are no eye witnesses, but only supposed victims word of mouth? i want to know becus this is not helping us black men who’re having it already difficult to maintain the ever growing hostile atmostphere in here.
Tabloids like Ilta-Sanomat and Iltalehti are a disgrace to journalism, especially when it comes to racism and spreading racist opinions. We have had a number of stories on Migrant Tales where we’ve shown how the media colludes with racism. Here’s one: https://www.migranttales.net/the-finnish-and-european-media-still-have-a-lot-to-learn-about-racism-and-intolerance/
I just want to let it be known that, Iltasanomat you’re doing very very damaging journalism for inciting more heteret towards dark skin people with news like this. We’re already having racial problems in Finland, this kind of suspect journalism isn’t doing favor to anyone. We don’t want people to scare of us or think of us black men to be rapist, any woman can say she was raped but that doesnt make her claim to be truth, these kind of so called rape reports has been done before over and over again, almost every month there is a report like this where a girl or a woman claims a black man tried to rape her but she scaped of him and he disappeared, no eye witnesses, no dna evidence, no police report, no evidence at all, only womans or girls words, what the heck is that, and you Iltasanomat report and make big news out of it becus the suspects skin happens to be DARK SKIN? there is really something fishy going on, almost seems like there is agenda behind these news. Iltasanomat or Iltalehti i ask you to be more reponsible with your news, you’re causing harm to individuals weather you know it or not.
I went to visit Iltalehti comment section just for curiosity if they opened a discussion secteion about this news, surprise surprise they did, there is a heated discussion going on, GENERALIZATION asbout us dark skin people living in Finland, now again and again we’re lumped in one box, the impression i got from this chatters is we black men living in Finland are all rapist now, actually im not surprised, it’s like every now and then, there is a strong desire to have these kind of news to just KEEP FEEDING THESE STEREROTYPES against us, this is a smart way to keep us down, to keep majority hating us, have prejudice against us, and it’s working, now i want all of you to visit ILtalehti comment section and find this news and read those chatters comments about what they’re writing about us. Im a black man living in Finland, i have lived all my life in Finland, not have i ever raped a girl or woman, not even tried, has never occured to my mind, to have a rapist stigma is a humiliating and frustrating, i just don’t know what to think of this, you just wonder when will this is going to stop, it’s been going on for ages, i just hope sensible to use their mind and logic and not believe everything they read or hear because reality is totally something else.