Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Violence against refugees in Finland

Today saw the second headline in two weeks about an attack on asylums seekers at a hostel in Finland. Two weeks ago someone threw some sort of bomb at a Red Cross hostel for refugees in SW Finland, fortunately with no injuries. Yesterday, men armed with knives attacked a refugee inside a reception centre in northern Finland, and another refugee was thrown in a nearby lake. The national broadcaster YLE has come up with the quite incredible headline this evening of:
Authorities Unalarmed by Reception Centre Violence
One wonders what would have to happen to alarm them? Is people making bombs and throwing them at occupied buildings not alarming? YLE also reports the authorities saying - as if it was a good thing - that no known "organised hate groups" have been linked to the attacks in northern Finland. If a known group was involved, they could be arrested and charged. If no known group is involved it means that locals are actually organising racist violence themselves, in places where that kind of activity didn't exist before. I'm not sure if that can really be seen as a good thing. The move towards committing politically/ideologically motivated violence has over recent years become known as "radicalisation" - and is generally considered pretty frigging alarming when it is being done by young, brown, Muslim men. Understanding what factors lead to that radicalisation has become a central political and academic question across Europe since 9/11. The same questions should be asked in these case as well.

Finland is not facing any particularly big issues over immigration; no more than anywhere else in Europe, and actually a lot less than most. Yet still some wish to make political capital out of attacking asylum seekers, whilst national policy makers (probably with the best intentions if not much forethought), tell Finns that immigrants are a security risk. Perhaps the knife wielders of Kemi and bombthrowers of Suomusjärvi think they are defending something. I'm an immigrant and I'm not a security risk. I am pretty angry though.


Your Neighbour said...

STT reports today that two men aged 29 and 33 years have been arrested on suspicion on the attacks in northern Finland.

The motive for these actions has not yet been determined, though the local police initially suspected jealousy.

I am not surprised at the YLE headline, which seems to me to be an example of proper restraint by the media (or at least by the translator - I couldn't find the original Finnish news story to check this). Alarmist headlines only tend to exacerbate problems and to create needless tension.

Most asylum seekers are young males who soon come into contact with their peers in the vicinity of reception centres. Exactly the same phenomenon arises near military barracks and other places where young male outsiders are concentrated.

Anonymous said...

I also think it's an odd article. Not only because the authorities are apparently unalarmed, but also because it is rather vague as to what is actually happening. In the headline "Reception Centre Violence" isn't clear. It could be racist attacks from the public, it could be fighting within different groups of asylum seekers or it could be any number of other things. The two examples are clearly racist or political attacks - why don't YLE just say Authorities unalarmed by violent attacks on Reception Centre inhabitants.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

I can take Your Neighbour's point - of course the police don't want to escalate the situation - although articles such as the one I linked from the head of SUPO and the Immigration dept. do exactly that. But I think the headline is very unfortunate. Of course the incident could have been a fight that had specific local causes, rather than a general racist attack. But after the 'bomb' (don't we call them IEDs now?) attack in the SW, it's a very unfortunate pattern. "Authorities believe that attack at reception centre was not primarily racially motivated" would seem a much better headline. They way it is currently just sounds like they're not really bothered.

Your Neighbour said...

Politics, Toby!

The first thought that came into my head when I saw that Sunday debate article in Hesari on 7 June was that the Interior Ministry is using old tactics in a new area.

For as long as I can remember, public discussion of various threat scenarios has been part of this ministry's unofficial lobbying campaign for increases in its budget allocation. The only important difference in this latest case is that the ministry is campaigning for higher spending on the official immigrant integration programme, which recently became one of its administrative responsibilities. The basic tactic of forecasting the Tiber foaming with much blood if we don't spend more now is exactly the same as it always has been.

The essential argument that failing to integrate immigrants is likely to lead to costly social problems down the road is not new by any means. These points were made years ago when the official immigrant integration programme was still administered by the Ministry of Labour.

The article that you referenced is a translation of the original Sunday debate contribution by Salmi and Vuorio. Unfortunately the translator was unaware of the important distinction between integration and assimilation. The introductory paragraph (which was not part of the original contribution) also gives entirely the wrong flavour to the article as a whole. I repeat: this is simply a traditional Interior Ministry pitch for increased funding, but now applied to a new area of that Ministry's work.