“Tolerant” Minister Lindström and his aide planned to slash funding to integration programs in Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Blue Reform* (formerly Perussuomalaiset) Minister of Labor Jari Lindström’s special aide Sakari Puisto aimed to slash financial aid to migrant associations by 348,000 euros from 750,000 euros, reports Helsingin Sanomat. A ministry official was “shocked” when he heard such plans by Puisto in January.

Some associations that were going to see their financial aid cut included Liikkukaa, Sateenvarjo, Suomen somalilaistenliitto, Suomen Somali verkosto as well as others.

Lindström, who has tried to portray himself as “tolerant” on immigration issues, saw such a facade expose a more sinister face after the scoop by Helsingin Sanomat.

Plans to drastically cut financial aid to associations that work with migrants fall into the anti-immigration policies of the Perussuomalaiset (PS), which have now split into two parties after Jussi Halla-aho, whose hostile views on immigration are known and who was convicted for hate speech in 2012, was elected chair the PS.

One of the reasons why the PS grew in Finland has been a simple message: We’ll take care of the Somali and “migrant problem” in Finland.

“Taking care” of the so-called “problem” has meant hostility towards migrants, the tightening of immigration policy and undermining integration programs to migrants.

Habiba Ali, a Social Democratic Party councilperson of the city of Espoo, said that if the cuts suggested by Puisto would have gone ahead, it would have undermined the work of these organizations to help integrate them into society.

“Sports is important for [some] migrants if they want to integrate into Finnish society,” she said. “Investing in integration policies makes sense since this will mean more effective integration and future taxpayers.”

Read the full story here.

Ali said that integration is a two-way process and that the law should apply to everyone equally.

“We should be vigilant that such things don’t happen again and that there isn’t an abuse of power,” she added.

Christian Thibault, Liikkukaa executive director, expressed concern about the story in Helsingin Sanomat.

“Many organizations who involve migrants in their work and management are doing good and valuable work and have the means, understanding and effect on the different migrant communities [in Finland] that other [groups] would find hard to achieve,” he said. “I invite those who doubt our work to join us as volunteers to see the important work we do. I also hope that private enterprises can take a bigger role in funding such organizations.”

Ayisat Yusuf, a member of the European Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) board, was surprised by the news as well when contacted by Migrant Tales.

“This is bad because it makes life difficult for immigrants to live in a country where their future is uncertain,” she said.

* After the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity, one is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic. 

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 thereafter the acronym PS.

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