Why is racism such a difficult matter for Helsingin Sanomat to address?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Helsingin Sanomat raised an important question: There are a record amount of asylum seekers from Ukraine, but nobody is crying murder like when mostly Iraqis and Afghans came to Finland in large numbers in 2015.

In a statement Monday, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) said that there are over 37,000 Ukrainians registered in the Finnish asylum reception system, more than the over 32,000 asylum seekers that arrived in the country in 2015.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Finland’s largest daily asks a good question that should expose our double standards: Why do Ukraininens get preferential treatment against the hostile reception asylum seekers from outside Europe received seven years ago?

The question that the Helsingin Sanomat headline asks is such a good one that answering it may expose many ugly things that we do not want to know about ourselves.

Helsingin Sanomat, however, squanders that chance.

For one, the only expert the daily uses in the story is Migri head of section, Olli Snellman.

During 2015 and beyond, Migri was the source of a lot of criticism on how it handled asylum cases. Even today, we are seeing such effects with asylum seekers still in legal limbo after seven years, thanks to Migri dragging its feet on residence permit decisions.

Some would claim that the preferential treatment of Ukrainians over Middle Easterners and Africans also hinges on Islamophobia and racism.

The story does not ask what the role of racism is in this important and welcome shift to asylum seekers.

Later on in the story, we get an answer to this important question that reveals the reporter’s caution:

“According to Snellman, the attitude towards Ukrainians is different from that of the 2015 arrivals: the situation in Ukraine has created a clear experience of injustice. As the aggressor is a neighboring country of Finland, sympathies are clearly on the side of the Ukrainians.”

And then Snellman admits: “It sounds quite harsh, but the fact that people look like us certainly plays a role.”

What?! “It sounds quite harsh?!” Admitting that race, ethnicity, and geography play a role in how we perceive others?

Helsingin Sanomat could have done a better job with the story instead of relaying views that deny our serious issues with racism and treating services like Migri with kid gloves.

Interviewing sociologists, former asylum seekers who came in 2015 and racialized experts would have shed more light on the topic.