From the fall we have heard the police service, politicians, government ministers, the media and recently the head of state of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, give statements that bolster racist and far-right ideology that label and victimize asylum seekers, migrants, and minorities in this country.
Every time these so-called poorly planned statements are made the first ones who feel the brunt of their hostilities are people who may look like asylum seekers. In this group, there are children as well who get a taste of our xenophobia.
President Niinistö is the best recent example of how politicians give space to far right ideology and racism in Finland. Such public figures do so to further their political careers. Hint: Niinistö is courting the anti-immigration vote for the 2018 presidential elections.
Those who have followed Niinistö know that he’s no friend of our ever-growing culturally diverse society never mind asylum seekers.
What he said Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the new parliamentary session shouldn’t surprise us too much. The pattern is clear: feed the public with the usual dose of anti-immigration rhetoric and then retract and act surprised by stating that “it wasn’t what I meant.”
What did Niinistö state?
Read full story here.
Apart from pronouncing the term “asylum” incorrectly, he stated:
“At some point, someone has to recognize that, here and now, we cannot fulfill all of our obligations under international agreements,” according to the Helsinki Times.
And then retracts in Helsingin Sanomat:
“I never said anything like that [ditching international agreements]. What I said was that it’s difficult here and now to meet all the obligations [of such refugee treaties].
So Niinistö states that respecting over half a century old treaties like the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, other ones like the Dublin Agreement and EU’s shameful lack of unity in the face of this challenge are the problem but offers no solution except for more fuel to the anti-immigration fire.
Swedish-language daily HBL got in touch with an expert on political rhetoric in Sweden to analyze what Niinistö said.
States the expert Alaine Eksvärd: “Many would consider what he [Niinistö] said as racist by painting refugees as a group that threatens culture rather than people who need help. In Sweden, we have a party that paints refugees as a threat and they are the Sweden Democrats…If Jimmie Åkesson [chairman of the Sweden Democrats] were prime minister he’d say the same thing [as Niinistö].”
The jury may be out for some about what Niinistö meant but not for Migrant Tales. President Niinistö knew exactly what he said and he knew what type of a reaction his words would cause. Like many politicians and the police service, he too was speaking in code to his followers.
Niinistö is an experienced lawyer, politician and Finland’s head of state. It’s his job to know what reaction his words would have especially when you speak about such a topic like asylum seekers.
This is what Alan Bruce had to say about what Niinistö said:
Let’s look at some more of these so-called poorly thought-out statements.
I will not get into the xenophobic and nationalistic statements made by Perussuomalaiset (PS)* ministers like Jussi Niinistö, Hanna Mäntylä and Jari Lindström and Timo Soini’s eerie silence in light of the latter.
We’ve seen a lot of them by politicians, the government and the police service concerning asylum seekers and far-right vigilante groups like the Soldiers of Odin.
Detective chief inspector of southern Finland, Markku Tuominen, surprised a lot of people In January when he was quoted in the media as saying that Finns should avoid contact with foreigners. In December, we even read that the police service of Häme welcomed street patrols in the town of Asikkala, according to Hämeen Kaiku.
Even if Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has had to come out and clarify such statements by the police concerning vigilante street gangs, there seems to be no end to how asylum seekers are being constantly labeled as something criminal and suspect. We saw one of these social media lynchings on January 11 when the police service claimed that sexual harassment by asylum seekers was something new in Finland.
After months of xenophobic hype and labeling asylum seekers as criminals and rapists, Police Inspector Tommi Reen and National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen said at a press conference that a relatively small proportion of crimes are committed by foreigners. If there were 25 suspected rape cases last year by foreigners and there are 32,000 asylum seekers in Finland that comes out to 0.08%.
While the press conference was a positive matter but came too late it did little to help clear the anti-asylum seeker atmosphere in Finland.
Another scandal was when the police service claimed in October that migrant entrepreneurs selling under 6 euro pizzas were probably evading taxes.
When asked in December on YLE’s Ykkösaamu talk show about the attacks against asylum reception centers, the only thing Interior Minister Orpo had to say was that he was “saddened” by such “illegal” attacks and that the 80-point plan to tighten immigration policy would help calm matters down.
Like the government, Orpo uses the term “illegal uncontrolled immigration” to describe asylum seekers fleeing wars.
He doesn’t normally call them asylum seekers because that would look good when his ministry starts to deport about 20,000 of them back to war zones like Iraq.
Without listing numerous examples of these so-called poorly thought-out statements and comments by public officials, it’s clear that there is a pattern and a common narrative that appears over and over again in plain language and in code.
The plain and code language state that Finland is an island and wants to remain that way. For centuries, we’ve excluded the Saami, Roma, and other minorities from being equal citizens of our society and fought hard in wars to keep the Russians out in order to enjoy our white Finnish privilege.
Those who are accepted here will be watched closely for 2-3 generations. By then your “foreign” name should disappear and, hopefully, your skin color should become lighter just like ours.
* The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.