Marseille Forum to Debate Migration
Speech delivered at the meeting of the Party of the European Left’s working group for migration affairs, Berlin 01.10.2017
Tiago Silva, Chairman of Turku’s Regional Organisation of the Communist Party of Finland (SKP)
The immigration debate in Finland has been almost exclusively focused on the refugee question and it has taken a disproportionate space in public discussion, unfortunately for all the bad reasons. Sometimes it is as if all the country’s problems were due to immigration and refugees, which is not the case, as you may imagine.
Since 2015 we have had a right-wing government that took into its midst the xenophobic far-right party True Finns. The party broke last summer when its most racist and proto-fascist faction took hold of the party’s direction. The former leading tendency of the party, however, continued in the governmental coalition and formed a new parliamentary group under the moniker “New Alternative” which aims to establish a new party with the picturesque name “Blue Future”. The new party will not cease to be xenophobic; they are just trying to clean their faces to give an appearance of respectability and moderation. So, in Finland we have this queer situation of having two conservative far-right parties: the openly-racist and populist True Finns and the more-carefully-racist but still populist Blue Future. These far-right sectors of Finnish politics have been able to define the government’s policies regarding refugees. As such:
Humanitarian protection as basis for residence permits has been eliminated;
The Finnish migration office has declared Iraq and Afghanistan (of all countries!) to be safe destinations for deportations, while we know that people are dying by the hundreds every year in those countries due to internecine struggles;
Family reunification has been made increasingly more difficult for refugees;
Asylum seekers’ access to judicial assistance has been severely limited;
The duration of the time period for presentation of official complaints concerning the Migration Office’s decisions has been drastically reduced.
Basically, everything has been done to make asylum seekers’ and refugees’ lives as difficult as possible. This is expected to function as a deterrent to those abroad who might consider applying for asylum in Finland. As a result, the number of negative decisions went through the roof the last couple of years; the handling of applications has been quite faulty, to say the least; and the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court has returned numerous negative decisions for reassessment at the Migration Office due to flaws in the handling of the processes.
From the human rights’ perspective, Finland’s response to the refugee crisis has been virtually criminal. Since a few months back, there has hardly been a week we do not hear about someone being forcefully deported to Iraq or Afghanistan; in some cases, whole families with toddlers in their arms. Many are sent to face a probable death.
In the wake of the recent stabbings in Turku where two people were murdered by a Moroccan national who had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Finland, the government resorted to populism by laying the blame on asylum seekers as a whole. Accordingly, more financing and power are to be granted to police and army institutions, and the government is preparing its own Finnish version of the ‘Patriot Act’. The deportation of asylum seekers is to be made more efficient and the government even intends to criminalise the provision of support by the resident population to those who attempt to stay in the country despite a negative decision.
These are draconian measures. But on the bright side of the whole scenario, it is also true that the government’s xenophobic programme has met opposition from a great part of the Finnish society and from the asylum seekers themselves, with big demonstrations in favour of a multicultural Finland and with active protests against deportations of asylum seekers.
From our point of view at the Communist Party of Finland, this attitude of active opposition to nationalism and xenophobia, and in support of multiculturalism is the way forward. Still, the left should also materialize its principles in a clear programme for immigration issues; a programme that is easily understandable by the general working class population and where the workers’ and poor people’s fears regarding immigration are dealt with from a progressive point of view. Thus we may strike at the root of working class support for the far right and we shall put forward a progressive response to the refugee crisis. Both the Marseille Forum and the Catania conference, which the European Left is organising together with other left-wing forces, are quite important steps in that direction.