By Enrique Tessieri
We must ask hard questions if we want our new integration program, which came into force in September, to do what it sets out to: effectively integrate new immigrants as equal members of society. But one of the many challenges of the program aren’t resources and immigrants but the attitudes of the native population.
Another important question is can an integration program actually integrate people? Integration, or adaption, is a long and complex process. How many years do natives need to study at schools in order to be integrated into society and the job market?
One of the most worrisome matters in the ongoing debate concerning our ever-growing cultural diversity is how some anti-immigration groups and politicians would be more than happy to have one set of laws and rules for the majority and another one for immigrants. Thus the natives would enjoy all the civil rights enshrined in our laws while the latter groups would have limited rights.
This is not to say, however, that this two- or many-tiered society already exists in Finland.
Good examples of this situation can be found on Migrant Tales’ comment board, where some bloggers have suggested limiting religious freedom and freedom of expression for certain immigrant groups.
The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party’s Nuiva Manifesto is a case in point. If ever adopted as the big picture of how Finland should integrate immigrants, the manifesto would not only spell disaster but seriously hinder immigrants from becoming equal members of society. Even if other parties don’t have such a manifesto, they quietly identify and support it.
Debate on different social media discussion sites show us another worrisome fact: ignorance about our basic civil rights.
Should the government launch for some Finns their very own integration program to bring them up to date about their rights and obligations as well of that of other groups? Certainly. The sooner the better.
In my opinion, one of the flaws of the government’s integration program is that there is no big picture concerning the role immigrants and their children in our society. Without such a grand picture it is difficult to debate matters like equal rights, social justice and equal opportunities.
Are we hesitant to speak and promote such a grand societal view that would include immigrants because it would require some of us to accept them as equal members of society?
If we have two sets of unwritten laws and rules for the native population and other groups, integration will only be a catchword used by politicians for their own selfish means.
One very important first step in the ongoing debate should be to include more immigrants and Finns with international backgrounds in the debate. That would certainly give more perspective to the debate and permit us to look at the realities and challenges instead of expectations by the majority population.