It is with great concern that researchers of the anti-racist research network RASTER have followed the events in Finland during this past fall. Please read our statement here.
Anti-immigration speech, which dismisses human rights, is not a new phenomenon in Finland. However, during the past fall, words have led to increasingly dangerous and widespread acts. At least nine arson or attempted arson attacks against asylum seekers’ reception centers have been reported. Neo-Nazi and extreme right groups claim to patrol the streets in several cities. Violence against asylum seekers, against people who have moved to Finland from other countries and against non-white Finns is on the rise.
Violent anti-immigrant action and the ideology that comes with it are increasingly common. Nazi ideology has been openly supported both in the social media and at demonstrations that took place this fall. The use of violence and the threat of violence to achieve political goals, such as closing reception centers or changing immigration practices, is terror. However, the violence and insecurity has not caused concern among political decision-makers or among authorities responsible for national security and law and order. The government has not intervened adequately against the violent agitations.
Rather than interfering with terror, the government presents asylum seekers as a threat to society. These threat perceptions are used to legitimize plans to radically weaken the legal rights of asylum seekers. The government’s most recent asylum policy document includes numerous suggestions that puts asylum seekers and refugees in an unequal position compared to others who are living in Finland. When put into practice, they profoundly change Finnish society by giving up the principle of equal treatment and by accepting discrimination.
The government views the refugee question from an economic viewpoint only. Rather than focusing on securing the lives of people seeking refuge, the government wants to cut the asylum system’s funding.
Attempts to burn adults and children alive do not seem to raise concern among media commentators either. It is time we take this situation seriously. We are not witnessing the struggle between two equal views on the issue, but the spread of a violent and undemocratic ideology. It is vital to understand that the security threat comes from within the Finnish borders. It leans on the neo-nationalist illusion of a nation state of Finns who are of the same origin and of one opinion. This illusion has never been true. Welfare in Finland is and has historically been built on transnational relations.
The authorities responsible for internal security must to react to violence. The first step is to acknowledge the severity of the situation. The police needs to ensure that violent attacks against individuals are investigated, and that political violence from the extreme right is effectively prevented. The government must to condemn violent political ideology and stop labelling people who seek international protection. Asylum policies need to ensure, at a minimum, that these procedures abide by the Finnish Constitution. The principle of equality in Finnish legislation is not negotiable.
We welcome everybody to join those people living in Finland who know that a society sustained by people of different origins is freer and fairer than one built on the myth of sameness. Safe everyday life must be guaranteed for all of us. State borders cannot undo human rights.