Monday, July 22, 2013

Why scare off immigrants when Finland needs immigrants' labor input?

Immigrants are disrespected, abused and labelled as "welfare leaches" and rapists by anti-immigration proponents and far-right xenophobes, many of whom seem to be unaware of the fact that Finland is in need of immigrants to help sustain its social and health sector.

Speaking on 15 July 2013 in Seinäjoki, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Paul Risikko, said Finland's social and health sector needs immigrants' labor input. Almost 17 000 workers in the sector will retire yearly by 2020 and it is estimated that there will be 225 000 job openings in the sector by 2025. According to the Minister, Finland's young age group is not enough to fill the labor shortages and the country needs skilled labor from abroad.

Besides the fact that many immigrants are in Finland for the long haul, if not permanently, it's high time anti-immigration activists in the country, including convicted MPs like James Hirvisaari and Jussi Halla-ajo come to terms with the fact that Finland needs immigrants, especially in its social and health sector.

In my view, expressions of anti-immigration sentiments scare off some immigrants, including graduates in the field of nursing and other social services, and go a long way to hurt Finland's social and health sector which according to Minister Risikko is in need of immigrants' input.

As of the time of this writing, foreign students in the field of nursing and other social services study in Finland's top universities free of charge. Common sense suggests that the country should harness the skill it imparts students in a bid to arrest looming labor shortages in the social and health sector. This can be done by promoting equal opportunities and employing graduates without discrimination of any kind.

I'm aware of the fact that many skilled foreign nationals, including nursing graduates of African origin for example don't feel welcomed in Finland. Some feel discriminated in and out of work and Finnish language barrier is a major career road block to others. Anti-immigration elements might be glad to learn that many would like to leave the country and pursue a career elsewhere while labor shortage looms in Finland.

It doesn't make sense, in my opinion, to train foreign students as nurses and social workers - free of charge - and then scare them off in the face of an aging population and impending labor shortages.

Finland's anti-immigration proponents, many of whom are bolder and more vocal with the advent of the internet, social media and anti-immigrant chat rooms, are hurting the country - especially its social and health sector - by bashing and scaring off people whose input is needed to sustain much-needed health and social services.

*Image: Yle

Monday, July 8, 2013

Finns are not rapists, neither are immigrants

In online discussion forums, immigrants in Finland are portrayed as rapists simply because some immigrants have been convicted of rape by Finnish courts. This representation points to desperate attempts by far-right elements to slander, discredit and disparage all immigrants, including countless respectable law abiding immigrants.

Finns and immigrants commit crimes - from serious crimes like rape to petty crimes and misdeeds, but crimes committed by individual members of the latter group are used to label the whole group.

On 5 June 2013, Helsinki court of appeal reduced the sex crimes conviction of a modeling boss from Joensuu, eastern Finland. According to Itä Sanomat, a lower court initially sentenced the Finn to 13 years in prison  for numerous rapes and seventeen sexual exploitation crimes, including aggravated rape of an 18-year-old girl.

The serious case of Tero Eronen (see photo of him covering his face) brought before the Helsinki district court in 2011 was about the sexual exploitation of 12 young women. Charges included one count of aggravated human trafficking, sixteen counts of sexual exploitation, five counts of forcing a sexual act, one count of attempted rape, nine counts of rape, three counts of aggravated rape and attempted killing.

In my opinion, Helsinki court of appeal tempered justice with mercy by reducing the sentence. Meanwhile, the court of public opinion that commonly "convenes" in anti-immigration online discussion forums dropped the case - because Eronen isn't an immigrant. If the convict were an immigrant, all hell would have broken loose and the immigrant community in Finland would forever be condemned for numerous sex crimes committed by one man.

In reply to a tweet about Finnish language courses for immigrants, people of African descent were referred to as "rapists" (in Finnish: raiskaajat) by a Twitter user.

Finns, as a people, are not branded rapists based on crimes committed by people like Eronen and others. It is therefore discriminatory and, of course, wrong to judge all immigrants by crimes committed by a handful of individuals.

Attributing crimes committed by individuals to immigrants as a group while crimes committed by Finns are not pinned on all Finns points to discrimination in the treatment of immigrants. There shouldn't be double standards. Finns and immigrants commit crimes, which should be condemned, equally, in the strongest terms without labelling a racial or ethnic group.

*Image: Iltä Sanomat

Friday, July 5, 2013

Racially abusive response to Finnish language course tweet

I have met and worked with great Finns who promote diversity and respect people irrespective of race, ethnic origin, gender, belief or sexuality. On the other hand, I have had experiences with another set of Finns who come across as outright racist and xenophobic.

I am active on Twitter and I interact on the social networking site with people from different parts of the world; people with varying opinions and perspectives on a variety of world affairs. Interactions get heated sometimes and some people make shocking expressions that, in my view, mirror who they are and what they stand for in real life.

On 4 July 2013, a Finnish Twitter user tweeted a racist response to one of my tweets.

F-word, n-word rapists

In June, I tweeted a link to a news report that an immigrant in Helsinki can wait on queue for over four months for a place to learn Finnish language so as to have a  possibility to join the Finnish workforce or take a professional course as part of the "integration programme" for immigrants run by employment offices.

In response, more than two weeks later, Twitter user Jaska Reinikainen used racist and abusive language. Roughly translated to English, he wrote (in poorly punctuated Finnish language):
"Nothing prevents you from studying independently f***** n***** rapists go to hell!!!" #n*****chancre
 The tweet is nothing but a blatant expression of racist sentiments and hate. It reflects everyday abuse directed at visible minorities in Finland.

In my opinion, such language is inappropriate. It incites hatred against people of African descent by branding them rapists. The tweet gives credence to accounts of hostility toward people of African descent and immigrants in Finland.

Police Net Tip

Finland has a population of over 5 million people. I am confident that the majority won't approve such racist and abusive language.

In the meantime, Finnish police have an online service known as Net Tip (in Finnish: Nettivinkki) through which online crimes, including racist and hate crimes, criminal threats or incitement against an ethnic group could be reported. I would consider using the service.

Just so we are clear: I won't be intimidated or bullied into silence and I encourage everyone faced with racism and racial abuse to stand up and speak up. I will continue to raise issues that adversely affect immigrants and other minorities in Finland and elsewhere.

Thanks to my blog neighbor, Migrant Tales, for all the support.

Follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ukraine's forgotten children with disabilities, left for dead

The plight of African children, including victims of poverty and those orphaned by war, disease and abandonment is commonly highlighted by the media and aid organisations. Focus on Africa is so high that equally disadvantaged children in more developed countries like Ukraine seem to have been abandoned and forgotten by their parents, governments, aid organizations and other stakeholders.

A friend on Facebook shared a disturbing video that tells the story of Ukrainian children with disabilities abandoned by their parents, together with orphans in government-run institutions that have in tend, in my opinion, been abandoned by the Ukrainian government.

The 2012 BBC documentary titled "Ukraine's Forgotten Children" is hard to watch.

Ukraine ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 28 August 1991. The convention guarantees the basic rights of children, including the right to develop to the fullest and to protection from abuse and exploitation.

The country is also party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it ratified in 2010.

It is easy to conclude, after watching "Ukraine's forgotten Children", that the government of Ukraine has violated its legal obligations under international human rights law with regard to the rights of children and persons with disabilities.

Orphaned children and those abandoned by their parents in state care have been left for dead in state institutions that do not conform with basic human rights standards in the areas of  health, safety, in the number and suitability of staff, as well as competent supervision - as laid down in Article 3(3) of the CRC.

According to the BBC, £9 billion was spent in Ukraine in preparation for hosting Uefa Euro 2012.

It is unconscionable that children live under such deplorable conditions in state institutions, with inappropriate health care and staff to carter for their special needs. Common sense suggests that children with serious medical conditions should not be sent to institutions that lack trained medical staff.

In my view, Ukraine's children in state institutions have been abandoned by both their government and the developed European community in general, including the media that focuses disproportionately on showcasing the plight of children in Africa and elsewhere. The media and European aid and development organisations are doing a great job putting the spotlight on (and protecting) children at risk in Africa, they should also highlight the plight of forgotten children in Europe, including orphans in Ukraine and discriminated Roma children scattered across Europe.

*Image: On The Box

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