The Finnish government is sending mixed messages about its role in the humanitarian crisis that Europe faces today. A good example of the latter is Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s announcement last week when he offered his home to refugees but last Friday the government unveiled plans to demote refugees that get a residence permit to second-class status.
Even if such moves are considered unconstitutional since in Finland everyone is equal before the law, we shouldn’t be surprised at what is happening because we have a populist party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* in government that is trying to save face on the backs of refugees and our culturally diverse community.
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Foreign Minister and PS chairman, Timo Soini, announced Friday that the government is studying the possibility of lowering grants given to asylum seekers by 37% to about 200 euros from 318 euros now.
This move is similar to what Denmark did in August, when approved by a slim vote to cut monthly benefits to refugees and other migrants by 45% from 10,849 krona (1,454 euros) to 5,945 krona (797 eur).
For those who don’t know, the Islamophobic Danish People’s Party (DPP) is calling the government shots in that country. The DPP is a close political and ideological ally of the PS.
Even if Finland will see an estimated 30,000 asylum seekers in 2015 and probably as many as 50,000 in 2016, the government is setting a poor example to them by telling taking away their rights to be treated equally in this country.
The PS, with the government’s blessings, are getting their grand prize: To demote migrant rights and fuel the ongoing atmosphere of suspicion against refugees, migrants, minorities and our culturally diverse community.
How will the government make the second-class treatment of migrants under the integration scheme possible?
In Finland people have the right to free movement. Different municipalities offer different levels of social aid. Some are more generous than others. If the government has its way, this right to such social aid will be taken away from those that are under the three-year integration program.
Social welfare will be the same for such migrants irrespective where you live in this country.
Such steps will not only make the plight of some migrants worse in Finland, it will demote them officially to second-class members of society.
Add to that the fact that the majority of migrants live in poverty in Finland and a worrisome picture emerges.
Even if harder times are expected for everyone, both Sipilä and Alexander Stubb are showing the wishy-washy face of Finland. Their targets are women, low-income workers and migrants.
If the government had its way, it would make it as hard as possible for people fleeing war and poverty to come to Finland.
There is a good interview of Stubb in Friday’s Financial Times.
Like so many things in Finland today, Stubb is a big disappointment.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party 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.