After the latest soundbites from mainstream Finnish politicians regarding their stance against immigration and their apparent lack of hard knowledge of the subject, I decided to set the record straight.
With the help of Statistics Finland (Tilastokeskus), it was not difficult to find the exact numbers of immigrants living in Finland as of end of last year. The breakdown in the chart below.
As you can see, 155k people of foreign citizenship live here (2.9% of the population and one of the lowest proportions in Europe). Of those, 34k are refugees, i.e. 22% of all foreigners in Finland and 0.64% of the total population of the country. Therefore, it is ridiculous to keep on mixing refugees with immigrants if they are only one fifth of the total amount of foreigners living here. By the way, that most demonised group of all, the Somalis, are less than 5k people in the whole country.
Now, after a little dose of facts, let’s tackle the 3 statements that have caught my attention lately:
- “Maassa maan tavalla”: This phrase, part “In Rome do as the Romans”, part “Love it or leave it” was uttered to great effect by the leader of the Finnish Social Democrats. She went further on to talk about the need for foreigers to obey the law and learn the language. My first problem with this statement is not its content, but its patronising tone. When you move abroad you know you will face new situations and have to adapt to your environment, which does include learning at least some of the local language. Following the law is also part of this process (who wants to move thousands of kilometres at a considerable cost only to end up in jail?). Furthermore, my second concern is related to the fact that Finnish laws and Finnish customs are not the same thing. Are we a tolerant enough society to accept people who look, dress and sound different as long as they contribute to society and pay their taxes, or is there an ideal of Finnishness they need to adhere to? Have we agreed on what that ideal is?
- Immigrants coming to Finland take jobs from Finns: Eero Heinäluoma, another SDP figure, took this cheap stab recently in an interview, further saying that if there is racism it’s because there aren’t enough jobs around. Let me get this straight: first we’re worried that foreigners (that “very homogeneous” group including e.g. IT workers, PhD students and people with low education from all over the world) don’t contribute to society and live off social security, then we’re worried because they have jobs? Furthermore, Mr. Heinäluoma doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp of elementary economics: the amount of jobs available is not fixed, it fluctuates with supply and demand. In a functioning market economy such as Finland’s the more people employed means an increased demand for other products and services, generating a ripple effect accross the market. As one of the Ilta-rags joked, the only thing he was missing was saying that “foreigners steal our women“.
- Ville Rydman’s views on immigration: I’ve been meaning to comment on the platform of this young National Coalition Party leader for some time. He mentions that recieving skilled migrants is challenging as Finland would be depriving developing countries of talent, while opening the doors to unskilled migration will create an uneducated underclass. He’s wrong on both measures: skilled migrants earn experience in Finland that can later be transferred to their countries of origin, while unskilled ones have here educational opportunities probably unavailable for them otherwise. I personally know examples of both. He then reveals his true colours by saying that immigrants should integrate “fully” to Finnish laws (which is fine) and Finnish ways (discussed above) while expressing that multiculturalism is both wrong and dangerous, without amplifying much further on either statement. If you simply don’t want people coming here, then why don’t you say so straight up and stop the posturing?
These are only 3 recent examples from 2 mainstream parties, but also certain Centre candidates share the same views (Paavo Väyrynen anyone?) and obviously our “friends” the True Finns are the reason why this whole brouhaha started, after their critical stance of immigration won them many votes in the last elections. With the economy in the doldrums we knew immigration, with its demostration of the fear of otherness, was going to be an easy target to fish votes and unfortunately were not proved wrong.
Finland deserves better politicians (and politics) than this.