I read with interest two columns published in the Helsinki Times by Finns Party MPs Veikko Vallin (20.10.2020) and Veijo Meri (23.10.2020) on a pet topic of their party: migration. Vallin, who asks what is “sustainable migration” for Finland, claims that when he was a migrant in the 1980s in Estonia, Portugal, and Sweden, as a white Finn, he noticed that “many” migrants from developing countries did not wish to integrate.
While in my opinion, this is an overused soundbite used by anti-immigration groups like the Finns Party, the question I’d like to ask Vallin is if he speaks of integration (two-way adaption) or assimilation (one-way adaption)? As a lawmaker, Vallin must have read our Constitution, which is the ultimate law of our land for everyone irrespective of their background. In our Magna Carta, discrimination is illegal (Chapter 2, Section 6), we are guaranteed freedom of religion (Section 11), the right to one’s language and culture (Section 17), and even the right to social security (Section 19).
In the face of these legal facts, the question that Vallin asks makes little sense. How are those “many migrants from developing countries” supposed to integrate if Vallin and the PS paint them as a threat to our country? A young Muslim woman I interviewed recently told me that the biggest issue in Finland continues to be othering. Muslims are not seen as Finns,” according to her.
Another matter that Vallin’s article forgets to cite is the history of how Finnish migrants, over 1.2 million between 1860-1999, adapted to life in North America and in other countries. If they would follow the PS MP’s concern, Finns would have never established newspapers, association or other groups to defend their language, culture, and rights in their new homelands.
Vallin is a successful businessman who uses ingenious tax loopholes to invest taxable money in countries like Estonia. Whenever he speaks of those “migrants from developing countries,” he usually does so in a demeaning manner. This is not helpful.
Another column by Veijo Meri (Do you love Finland?) offers as well a simplistic view of what is migration and how our ever-growing culturally diverse society is a threat to the established ethnic order. What he is saying in the column is that Finland does not need to change even if more migrants are moving here. What are his solutions to Finland and its evolving national identity?
Vallin’s observations about sustainable migration and Nurmi’s nostalgia for the Cold War era of President Urho Kekkonen are problematic and poor solutions on how to make our society a better functioning one for everyone. It is not the way to move forward.
MSc, Migrant Tales editor and founder