A news story on Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily, claims that Somali minors living in Finland are being taken against their will to Somalia. The daily speaks of ”a few” cases but suggests that in 2001 the figure may be around 50.
Statstics Finland claims that during 2001-11 there were about 200 minors who had moved to Somalia from Finland.
While it’s clear that Somalia is still not a safe country to live in never mind be a place to send your children, one of the matters that caught my eye in the story was that these children and adolescents were sent there against their will.
Somaliliitto, the Finnish-Somali Association, said that minors should not be taken to Somalia against their will. “Somalia isn’t still safe and we don’t support the idea that Somalis should return to the country,” Somaliitto chairman, Arshe Said, was quoted as saying on Nelonen.
How were they sent to Somalia against their will? How did they express their objection?
When I was a minor, I didn’t like moving from country to country. Even so, I had no choice because my parents decided what was best for me.
Does “being sent to a country against one’s will” mean being taken to a country that is politically unsafe, like Somalia?
Addis Ababa consul, Sari Jokinen, was quoted as saying that minors sent to Somalia were taken care of by relatives.
“Some have been very alarmed [about being in Somalia],” she said. “According to the children, there is no health care or possibilities to go to school in Somalia.”
What does the story, and the fact that a few minors go to live in Somalia from Finland, tell us?
It reveals that a very small minority of Somalis families in Finland are worried about how their children are losing touch with their parents’ culture. This is perfectly normal and happens in the best of families.
Some Finns forget that 1.2 million people emigrated from this land between 1860 and 1999. Sending your children to visit their grandparents was and still is an effective way for parents to keep their children in touch with their culture.
Family reunification was another important factor when Finns moved to other countries. Not only did they get their relatives to move to their new country but their neighbors and friends.
When I was a child growing up in California, I was grateful to my parents for sending me to Finland during the summers. I spent those summers with my grandparents getting that important injection of Finnish culture and language so it wouldn’t wear off completely.
Without those visits I would have been a poorer person today.