When any political party starts to talk about limiting immigration or keeping foreigners away from “our children”, you should see red flags. When political parties start to talk about these people as second-class citizens who are not welcome, you must get really worried about racism here.
Such talk is misleading and based on bigotry of the worse kind:
- You have seen what Hitler did to Jews during WW2 – some 6 000 000 were murdered in concentration camps.
- Look at Russia that wants to remove “Nazis” from Ukraine.
- We have seen the same cruel intent in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Israel, China…
- The list is longer when you see governments or politicians trying to isolate foreigner elements in special camps, isolated villages and schools.
During World War II, the United States forcibly relocated and incarcerated some 125,000 people of Japanese descent in 75 identified incarceration (prison) sites. Most of them were American citizens, yet they were forced to sell everything – their homes, their businesses, their belongings, before going to these prisons where they were held for 4 years between 1942 and 1946.
Many years later, President Jimmy Carter set up a Commission to review these measures, and it concluded that this was an act of racism. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which officially apologized for the incarceration on behalf of the U.S. and authorized a payment of $20,000 to living detainees.
Many Finns who moved to Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s found that they were treated as second class citizens. There are now an estimated 450 000 first- and second-generation Swedish Finns living there, of whom half still speak Finnish. When your correspondent was working in Stockholm in 2009-2013, he heard HR saying that the Swedish Finns should not speak Finnish in the office! What a cheek!
Post-war Finland was a hard place to live with high levels of unemployment after being traumatized by a bloody war with Russia. Some 700 000 Finns are said to have emigrated to Sweden, USA, Canada, and Australia in search of work and a better life for themselves and their families.
Now we have a general election coming in April here in Finland, and the True Finns have become one of the most popular parties alongside the incumbent parties, the Conservatives and Social Democrats. The True Finns have been selling themselves as anti-immigration together with measures to keep the population safe from “foreign values” and “foreign criminality”. In the past, they have been anti-Europe, and have had a brief love affair with Russia. Both have been dropped with Putin’s war and with Finland joining NATO. They also want to cut taxes, cut public borrowing, and pay out more money on welfare without bothering to explain how you can increase spending and cut tax revenues and borrowing – these are just “inconvenient details”. I doubt that the incumbent parties will be willing to share power in government with the True Finns. Doing so would be a step towards Trumpian politics…
Finland has a fast-aging population, and we need strong levels of immigration to ensure that we have enough workers at all types of work, from caregivers to engineers and salesmen. Our economy cannot work without them. We have great schools where we can teach immigrants our two languages and the other basic skills needed to succeed here.
Your correspondent can vouch for that – he came to Finland in 1972 with limited Finnish language skills and found great jobs. He now has a family with many grandchildren who now master three to four languages and have attained excellent school results. He is a board member of the Eira Adult High School in Helsinki, a truly wonderful school, where 3000 young students and young adults, of whom 1000 are immigrants, get a chance or a second chance to shine with a complete education. They can then move on in their lives to tertiary education and better jobs. The school is one of the best in teaching basic school subjects in classrooms and with developing distant learning over the Internet for students who have experienced difficult times and need extra support.
Offering a helping hand is what we need to welcome immigrants here. What we do not need is for populist political parties to slam shut the doors with bigotry and false claims.