The high social and economic cost of xenophobia and doing very little about it

by , under All categories, Enrique Tessieri

As Finland faces an ever-worsening labor shortage due to the greying of its population, the number of EU nationals that want to work in Finland has taken a nosedive, according to Seura.

The number of EU nationals that were granted work permits in 2018 totaled 4,179, which is a 28.1% fall from 5,699 in 2015, according to the Finnish Immigration Service. In 2017, 4001 EU nationals were granted work permits. The corresponding figure for 2016 was 5,247.

EU labor stats look bleak for 2019, as well. During the first six months of the year, 1,744 work permits were granted, which suggests that the total number for 2019 will be below 4,000.

Go directly to the Finnish Immigration Service website here.

So what gives?

Even if the article in Seura doesn’t mention it, have you ever heard of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party? They have, with the help of other mainstream parties and institutional racism, spearheaded during this decade the hostile environment against migrants and asylum seekers.

As a small indication of the PS’ Islamophobia, all of their MEP candidates agree that migrants crossing the Mediterranean should not be rescued by the EU and allowed to drown.

The PS is Finland’s second-biggest party in parliament. Why would anyone want to move and work in a country that has a largely unchallenged racist party spreading hatred against migrants? Moreover, in such an environment, institutional racism, bigotry, and discrimination are normalized.

Many studies that reinforce a social ill like racism in Finland. One of these is a 2018 study by the European Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) that reveals that a third of people of African descent (PAD) surveyed have experienced racial harassment in the last five years. Muslims are another group that is frequently targeted by Islamophobic groups, according to the European Islamophobia Report 2018.

Everyone is an accomplice in the hostile environment: the media, police, and public servants. Very little is done to challenge this hostile environment because it runs against the norm. Despite the situation, there is an ever-growing growing number of people who are standing up to the hostile environment.

If one tries to understand the ongoing debate about migrants and migration to Finland, there is one matter that dominates it: asylum seekers, which account for about 10% of all migrants in Finland. The party dominating this debate is the PS.

Labeling and victimizing a group like asylum seekers impacts the whole migrant community, even if you are a white EU citizen because it reinforces social ills like racism.

While the PS is clearly today a far-right Islamophobic party, other mainstream parties like the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Center Party, Christian Democrats, and others want to play political ball with them.

Moreover, Prime Minister Antti Rinne’s government appears to get cold feet in challenging the misconceptions and racism that the PS spreads.

All that this cowardice does is to make Finland an unattractive country for skilled EU labor. If you are “a person of foreign origin,” code for non-EU citizen and/or person of color, you would have to be pretty desperate to come to such an unfriendly country where suspicion is the norm.

The xenophobia that grips Finland today is like shooting its economic and social wellbeing in the leg. If we do not wake up in time to challenge parties like the PS and other groups like them, we will have nothing but ourselves to blame for our impoverishment and limited democracy.

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.