Like many European countries, Finland has seen a rise in far-right populism and extreme political views in recent years. Anti-immigration sentiments run high. Islamophobia and xenophobia are daily realities. One political party - Perussuomalaiset (PS) - champions the cause against immigration in the Nordic country.
The PS is no stranger to political scandals and hateful rhetoric against minority groups.
More recently on 22 April 2012, a notorious Member of Parliament (MP) for the party, James Hirvisaari, stated in a blog entry that Finland is a country for Finnish people. Such a bizarre and misguided statement, in my opionion, has no place in the 21 Century.
The blog post, titled "Suomi on suomalaisten maa", attacks humanitarian immigration and globalization, but fails to put forward any viable alternative. The author wrongly argues that immigrants travel abroad simply to enjoy social security in the receiving country. According to Hirvisaari, humanitarian immigration creates problems in the receiving country and does not solve the problem in the country of origin. He argues that Finland is for Finns and that Finland is not the Red Cross. In his view, it does not help the situation that more people are brought to Finland to "pursue their dreams."
Hirvisaari and other anti-immigration proponents in Finland seem to be unaware that Finland has a long history of emigration and that there are Finns who are immigrants elsewhere. Towards the end of the 1800s, large numbers of people emigrated from Finland to, in James Hirvisaari's own words, "toteuttamaan unelmiaan" (realize their dreams) abroad. Canada and the United States were popular destinations for Finnish emigrants. In the 1960s, the labor market in Finland forced many Finns to emigrate to Sweden. Hundreds of thousands of Finns emigrated to neighboring Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s. [Source].
It is wrong to brand refugees and all immigrants as "social security hunters", and to suggest that humanitarian migrants should not move to Finland. This twisted view of immigration is inflammatory. Like the hundreds of thousands of Finns who emigrated to Sweden and other parts of the world in the 1960s and 1970s, many people moving to Finland nowadays are hardworking individuals forced by man-made or natural circumstances to migrate. Finland cannot afford to completely close its borders in a globalized world. Even if it could, the social and economic consequences would be damaging. According to Statistics Finland, Finland's population is ageing and labour shortage is eminent. The country had the world's fastest greying population in 2007 and looming labour shortage can only be solved by attracting labour from abroad. Birth rate is low and more people are exiting work than entering it. [Source]. In 2011, a woman in Finland would give birth to an average of 1.83 children during her reproductive period, which is below the approximately 2.1 children per woman threshold on population renewal. [Source].
According to the European Commission, population ageing will have "repercussions" on Finland's labour market, economic growth and public finances. [Source].
It is true that other strategies, such as postponing retirement, could counter the effects of Finland's ageing population. However, measures such as attracting labour from abroad should not be completely ruled out. Arguing that Finland is for Finnish people does a disservice to the nation by creating a hostile environment for foreign nationals who, if given a fair chance, could contribute enormously to the economic wellbeing of the state.
From a civil and political perspective, as a member of the international community, Finland has an obligation to welcome so-called humanitarian migrants (refugees). People reserve the right under international law to seek protection from persecution or any form of ill-treatment in their country of nationality. This right is enshrined in the landmark 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its Optional Protocol to which Finland is a party. James Hirvisaari (and Perussuomalaiset as a whole) cannot change this - at least for now. The MP's egoistic view of "Finland-as-it-ought-be" is misguided and designed to score political points. His controversial blog post is yet another cheap shot directed at Finland's immigrant and refugee population.
James Hirvisaari was convicted for inciting hatred against an ethnic group by a court in Finland in 2011. The conviction was in relation to a text posted on his blog on the Uusi Suomi website. His divisive and inflammatory rhetoric is therefore not surprising, but it should not be entertained.
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Born and raised in a middle class family with strong Christian values in Cameroon, Central Africa, I learned quickly that all natural persons are born free and equal in rights. I graduated from the University of Buea with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, and received a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in International Human Rights Law and International Labour Rights from Lund University, Sweden. My passion is in promoting human rights and the rule of law. I'm a married proud daddy of two.