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Anti-immigrant campaign messages: Election 2015

April 15, 2015

I am not normally one to stir up controversy via my blog and I normally keep my thoughts to myself (or within my circle of close friends and family) with regards to political issues, but these are things I have to comment on ahead of the Parliamentary election this coming Sunday.

If election ads like the following appeared in Canada, which I consider racist, they would never see the light of day.

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Freedom of speech, sure.

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Racist and fear mongering? Absolutely.

Immigrants are not the root of the problems we’re facing in Finland. It still boggles my mind that candidates can run on an anti-immigrant platform. Mind you, for those not up to speed on Finnish politics, most of the main parties in Finland do not run on these kind of outright anti-immigrant platforms, though there are a few politicos who have put their foot in their mouth over the last few months.

When asked if Finland needs more immigrants, Päivi Räsänen (Christian Democrats) told the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE), “Yes, we need more immigrants,” she said. “We have areas in our labour market that we do not get Finnish people to do. Nowadays we have many immigrants working as bus drivers or taxi drivers and so on.” She freely admits that we need immigrants to do the work that Finnish people refuse to do. <sarcasm> Wow, that sets the standard really high for that person who hopes to come to Finland to practice the profession they trained for.

A few months ago in a YLE current affairs program (A-studio), the National Coalition MP Pia Kauma alleged that immigrant families with babies received better benefits than ethnic Finns. She claimed that ” ‘that Finns are losing out to non-natives when it comes to discretionary purchases made by local social services’ – in spite of evidence from an Espoo city official, who says all customers receive the same modest sum for baby gear.” And she added, “For example why should immigrant families purchase new baby carriages with social support, when if Finnish families have to recycle old carriages?”

An official from the City of Espoo had to immediately go into damage control mode, iterating that “immigrants do not receive more money for prams than Finns do.” Kauma had no evidence to back up her claims – and yet she was able to smear a whole group of people in front a national TV audience with no repercussions for her apparently false words.

That being said…

We keep being told that Finland needs immigrants to secure the future of its workforce and tax base. In the current economic climate with unemployment hovering near double digits and layoffs happening at a brisk pace, I really wonder where the jobs are.

Finally…

A message to the candidates running on an anti-immigrant platform in this election: You must remember that the people who come to this country cannot all be painted with the same brush.

This is a message to the candidates of Muutos 2011: Stop classifying educated immigrants who work and pay taxes here in the same group as the so-called “threat” you single out in your election ads.

And a message to all eligible voters (and thanks to a friend for suggesting a different word here): VOTE. Because you have the right to – even (especially) if you hate what the government is doing to the country.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. jenkkipossu permalink
    April 15, 2015 9:24 am

    “If election ads appeared in Canada like the following, which I consider racist, they would never see the light of day.”

    You’re not in Canada anymore, duh. Move back if a different country’s way offends you.

    • someone on the road permalink
      April 15, 2015 2:24 pm

      I would! As soon as I achieve what I planned to achieve in Finland. I won’t feel bad leaving cause I am paying back my duty and taxes to Finland, also contribute to Finnish technology industry. But for sure I’ll miss all the friends and memories I made here.

      I mean let’s think twice! For people who do NOT seek asylum and do not plan for social benefits, what would be so attractive and interesting about living in Finland for a long time?!! Honestly!
      The most strict and funny alcohol consumption rules in Europe. High prices for just normal if not bad food. Bad and dry taste in anything! in music, art, architecture … Just look at the ‘art’ installed in Kamppi metro station! This is how they make city more attractive to its citizen.
      I know several people that try and find ways to like Finland as long as they live here.

      So it’s wise to dial down anti-immigrant campaigns, advertise Finland in a different way, or maybe at least try to attract more ‘useful’ immigrants and expats. That’s Finland’s choice what to do about it…

      • Anonymous permalink
        April 15, 2015 10:44 pm

        Word, someone on the road.

        Nothing. Exactly nothing.

  2. April 15, 2015 9:56 am

    Jenkkipossu, you say it like it would be a good thing for Finland. You need to remember that if she leaves…2 highly educated Finnish taxpayers will be leaving as well as taking an active, bilingual piece of Finland’s future goes too. People need to stop suggesting that those immigrants who CAN leave should leave. One day they may do that…a whole bunch of them…and they will not only be taking educated Finns and many children with them but Finland will be left with primarily the immigrants who CANNOT leave. Those are the ones those politicians don’t want around. We should all be glad that someone is taking an interest in promoting tolerance and political participation.

  3. Kanukkipossu permalink
    April 15, 2015 11:11 am

    @jenkkipossu – I believe you are looking for Hommaforum. You may also find some more elegant put-downs there, too. Happy voting, I’m pleased to say your vote will be cancelled out by mine. That’s democracy in action.

    • jenkkipossu permalink
      April 15, 2015 12:07 pm

      I don’t speak Finnish so, no, hommaforum is useless to me.

  4. April 15, 2015 11:34 am

    It’s so much easier to blame and hate an outside group for our own problems. Anything that fuels fear or outrage is emotionally very addictive. Look at newspaper headlines: it’s 95% fear and outrage porn. It’s that way because newspapers have long ago figured out that this is how you get people to read the articles.

    The same is true for politics. “Vote for us or face a dystopian future” seems to be the generic slogan.

    It would be great if us humans would have an equal interest in positive news, but unfortunately our brains aren’t wired that way.

    Imagine you just stepped into a time machine and got teleported back a couple of thousand years. You’re walking around the jungle, and to your left, you see a donut tree (mmm… I love donut trees). To your right, you hear a rustle in the bushes – could that be a lion?

    It’s clear which of the two you need to focus your attention on: the lion. You can survive by ignoring the donut tree, but you won’t survive by ignoring the lion. Our brains have been programmed to focus on the fear to ensure our survival.

    The problem of course is that our world today is very different from the ones from a few thousand years ago. Most of us don’t need to fear for our physical safety very often, yet the old fear mechanism still continues to control us.

    When it comes to immigration, we need to realize that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

    Different people and cultures are a richness. More points of view generally results in a better outcome. The infusion of different cultures fosters creativity. More creativity means more economic and social wealth.

    There’s no lion that’s hunting you.

    But there may be a donut tree in your future if we all get together to make it happen.

  5. rayoflight permalink
    April 16, 2015 3:37 pm

    http://metronews.ca/news/toronto/1312140/survey-reveals-canadians-racist-leanings/

    The suppression of free speech seems not to work very well either.

  6. Sonia permalink
    April 16, 2015 6:45 pm

    It is so predictable what are the most typical reactions when a foreigner dares to mention racism and xenophobia in Finland. Tick one or a combination of those:

    [ ] “This is not [fill the name of your country here]! Go back to [fill the name of your country here again] if you don’t like it here.”

    * Believe me, some of us would, but sometimes you are just not living a backpacker’s life anymore.

    [ ] “Racism is everywhere else, too! It’s not better in [fill the name of other countries, especially Western Europe or the disliked ones]”.

    * Nobody claimed that the problem would be solely Finnish. But some other societies stand up against it to prevent history to repeat!

    [ ] “Oh, come on! This politician…
    a. didn’t mean it like this”
    b. was just joking”
    c. didn’t meant YOU. YOU are working and paying taxes!”
    d. combination or all of above

    * Politicians carry hardly ANY consequences of hatespeech in this country.

    [ ] “”We” have done it always like this! (optionally: Who do you think you are to come here and claim a melting pot?!”)

    * The best way to create a stagnant and self-righteous society –> go back to option 1.

    What annoys me most are not the populistic, racist slogans themselves, but the wide denial in the society that they exist.

    • bet permalink
      April 16, 2015 7:00 pm

      “It is so predictable what are the most typical reactions when a foreigner dares to mention racism and xenophobia in Finland. ”

      Well, aren’t you just happy about the reactions, so you can feel superior to those idiot others.

  7. Urmas permalink
    April 17, 2015 9:53 am

    Ad omnia — fabricando fit faber:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asterix_and_the_Roman_Agent

    😉

  8. 99lives permalink
    April 18, 2015 11:23 am

    The issue of immigration and whether or not it is ultimately a boon or a burden to a nation is no clearer in Finland than it is anywhere else in the world. There are aspects of Finnish immigration policies which need to be adjusted, that much is certain (source: I am a former immigration officer). The majority of our so-called “problem immigrants” have entered the Schengen area illegally but as their point of entry cannot be reliably ascertained, are granted asylum and a full complement of benefits in Finland irrespective of their ability to integrate into Finnish society because of national legislation that never really considered a pan-European border policy when it was created. It is outdated and doesn’t serve the interests of Finland or the immigrants it caters to, whose integration is hampered by the simple fact that they don’t *need* to do anything (like learn the language, seek employment, educate themselves) in particular to survive or even thrive.

    We continue to be one of only six European states using refugee quotas, but these quotas are rarely met and only really serve to tease refugees around the world with promises that never materialize (e.g. the state decides that this year, we’ll take 700 quota refugees from area X. A delegation is sent to area X to interview candidates pre-selected by the UNHCR, and let’s say 500 of those are approved. In a good year, about 100 of them will actually be able to transition to Finland this year, because what the state decides doesn’t matter unless they can convince municipalities to provide housing and financial support to these individuals. I personally put residence permits in the passports of individuals for four years in a row without ever seeing them leave their refugee camp – because no municipality wanted them). It’s a broken system designed to make us feel collectively better and needs to change.

    But! The issue here is racism in elections. Before delving into why these are permitted, a few additional things about the persons you mention:

    1. Räsänen isn’t really someone you should quote to support your argument any more than Hirvisaari. She’s a known religious nutjob and hasn’t made a statement based on factual evidence in years.

    2. Hirvisaari is a known racist. He left (or was he kicked? can’t remember) the True Finns party because they weren’t right-wing enough. The guy will never amount to anything. Simon Elo has a bit more clout and credibility, but as with every member of the True Finns that isn’t Soini, isn’t considered a genuine political threat to the way things are done.

    Now then, your post seems to suggest that these types of election ads wouldn’t / shouldn’t be permitted elsewhere. I’d agree with regards to Hirvisaari’s ad. The picture of the woman covered in a niqab and the aggressive tone of the language is clearly intended to frighten voters. With regards to Elo’s ad…eh, not so much. All it says is “I’d save on immigration”. What he’s saying is he’d take financing away from immigration programs (some of which are completely redundant, as I explained above) which doesn’t make any sort of a value statement on whether or not immigration is inherently good or bad. I could run with an ad that said “I’d save on education” and nobody would bat an eye, even though that would have implications on a far broader audience.

    Finland’s attitude to immigration is still taking shape. We’ve been an insular, almost isolated society for almost the entirety of our existence, only really seeing immigration and the resulting diversity in our population after the late 90s. Finns don’t know what to make of it, and in this time of confusion and adjustment, there will be elements that lash out in fear of what they don’t understand.

    Don’t let that discourage you. There are plenty of us who see the ultimate benefit of, and indeed the necessity of immigration to and from Finland. The world is becoming ever smaller and Finland has to stop pretending like it can continue to prosper without recognizing this. Immigration is just one part of that, but trust that we’ll figure it out sooner rather than later.

    • Sonia permalink
      April 20, 2015 11:37 pm

      Very insightful post, 99lives. Thank you. I was also puzzled: integration courses/procedures are not equally provided if you compare the metropolitan area to more rural areas. Not a problem for a proactive person, but when there is no response in the society, some may not go the extra mile.

      Regarding the “problem immigrants”, they are a fraction of the (tiny in comparison to the most EU-countries) foreign population of Finland. The negative headlines exaggerate and ignite the negative mindset of the local population.

      One thing, I will never understand: the hiding behind “but immigration is so new to Finland”. The most significant contributors to this country’s industrialization, architecture and culture were foreign influencers and merchants. Were they obtained in the 19th century with a similar level of xenophobia? I can’t imagine that. What would be Finland today without them?. I do understand that tough history made a mark on the nation, but it’s high time to look ahead, not backwards.

      Finland needs others: for cross-cultural competence, for export, for imports… Just look at the economy and employment…

  9. Sarah permalink
    April 22, 2015 12:40 pm

    I am so glad you posted this. I am a Canadian National, moved from the UK to Finland with my Finnish husband and children.
    I was born in the Middle East and have all my life been an immigrant somewhere, having only lived in Canada for a really short time as a child.

    I saw these posters in a town near to where I live in Southern Finland, was shocked and embarrassed at the message that was being spoken.

    Not only does it attack the idea of a culture-specific immigration problem (as apposed to a broader immigration debate), but also attacks the freedom of Finns themselves. Does one of those images not include a blue eyed women in a head dress? As if to criticize the choice of Finnish women to marry immigrants? Or is this meant to indicate some more sinister shift in the future?

    An a highly educated population, it is quite shocking to see this kind of xenophobia for immigrants of a certain cultural identity, as well as for those in Finland open enough to welcome them, as individuals, not numbers.

    I’ve been ranting at home about this issue and am glad that I am not alone in thinking this is 20 steps back in Finnish Politics.

Trackbacks

  1. Disappointed: Election 2015 | Life in Finland (and beyond)
  2. To allow or not to allow… | Life in Finland (and beyond)

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