The title of an interim report on immigration policy published by the Social Democratic Party on Friday not only reveals the party’s greatest fears but strengthens age-old views of outsiders. Apart from the political malarkey that SDP sees immigration as an opportunity, it likes to use pet catchwords – like the populist anti-immigration True Finns – such as “managed immigration.”
How can a country aspire to have a successful immigration policy and speed the integration of these people into our society if its first and foremost aim is to be on the defensive? How can it show leadership and promote good ethnic relations if it labels future and present newcomers, as it does almost constantly, as second-class employees, tax-dodgers, guilty of fuelling racism and working illegally in a two-tier market?
Even though the report claims that one of SDP’s aims is to lower unemployment, what has the party done in the past 25 years to improve the labor situation of immigrants?
The sad fact is that political parties in Finland have done dear little for immigrants in the past. Unemployment figures speak for themselves: the jobless rate has gone down from about 54% in 1994 to an estimated 26% today.
One of the mentors and strongest allies of the SDP’s anti-immigration wing is MP Kari Rajamäki, who was interior minister in 2003-07. Just like Jarmo Rantanen, another hardline SDP interior minister in 1987-91, Rajamäki’s view on immigration is so far off the mark that under his leadership immigrants and refugees will always be a target of suspicion.
For a person who has lived many years and heard countless promises by politicians that immigrants’ rights in Finland will improve, I take with a large grain of salt SDP’s interim report, especially where it states that surveillance of the labor markets should be stepped up. Racial profiling is one cause for alarm if the SDP gets their way.
One could rightfully ask as well why do we need new rules to scrutinize labor markets because more immigrants are moving to the country? No trust? Are Finnish workers honest and immigrants dishonest?
Taking into account the small size of the immigrant community in Finland and the fact that little has been done to improve their rights, what assurances do we have that anything will change if the Social Democrats are members of the next government?
The problem with the SDP interim report is one that has inflicted Finland throughout its history: Immigration and outsiders are basically seen as a threat.
One reason why Finland has such a small immigrant population is because some sectors still suffer from a bad case of xenophobia. Why would anybody want to move to such a country where the laws and atmosphere are generally hostile?
Apart from the few political sound bites in favor of immigration, the SDP interim report should be seen as a disappointment and even a greater one in the context of a party that has shifted closer to the populist True Finns on immigration policy.