By Enrique Tessieri
Below is a good example of how a public official’s comments helps strengthen racism and stereotypes of certain ethnic groups living in Finland. One of the biggest flaws in the arguments of anti-immigrant groups is that they incorrectly believe that cultures don’t change and therefore different groups are incompatible. I hope that the same stance as these far-right groups hasn’t overtaken the Finnish Immigration Service when we speak of the Somalis.
Does the Finnsh Immigration Service have a special grudge against the Somalians? Is this the reason why it likes to feed these types of stories in order to fuel xenophobia to new heights?
The warning is, however, clear: We don’t want Somalis in Finland because they will never adapt to our country. Up to 90% who want to move to Finland through family reunification are illiterate.
UPDATE (31.3.10): Here is a good example (in Finnish) of the hysteria that the Finnish Immigration Service and the media fuel with a percentage. The headline of the Tampere-based Aamulehti article says it all: Finland is not prepared for an avalanche of illiterate immigrants (Suomi ei ole valmistautunut lukutaidottomien maahanmuuttajien vyöryyn). The term “avalanche” is not only misleading it gives the impression that Finland is being invaded by “thousands of illiterate immigrants.”
It is odd that some Finnish policy-makers and politicians never ask if the problem of high unemployment among Somalians has to do with the hostility and bigotry they face daily in our society. Is it due to their outdated views of cultures and outright prejudice?
Finnish anti-immigrant and anti-Somalian critics forget to tell us that the majority of Italian, Spanish, Eastern European and other immigrants that moved to the Americas in the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth century were illiterate. Even though they faced racism and discrimination in their new countries, some of these groups ended up adapting very well and succeeding.
Even blacks from Africa that were forced to come to the United States as slaves from 1619 suffered tremendously from an oppressive system but later, through centuries of struggle, ended up finding a prominant place in US society. Most of these blacks, as well as their future relatives, were once illiterate.
Jussi Halla-aho, who appears to take joy and pride in bashing Somalis and Muslims for fun and personal gain, quoted Jorma Vuorio of the Finnish Immigration Service by stating that “90% of Somalis coming to Finland are illiterate.”
According to the Finnish Immigration Service, Vuorio mentioned that “85%-90%” of Somalians seeking residence permits in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are illiterate. Fine. But how many? According to the Finnish Immigration Service, we are speaking of 2,260 residence-permit applicants in 2009 compared with 1,855 in the previous year. “We expect the figure to rise to 4,000 this year,” said a Finnish Immigration Service official.
Seriously, can a few thousand Somalis force our social system to implode and did all of the applicants receive a permit to come to Finland? Are they a walking social time bomb as Hallo-aho warns in his usual populist style?
The social bomb that some warn us of will be instigated by our suspicion and prejudices – not by a handful of Somalians who can learn to read and write with our help.