Through that trusty and sometimes interesting medium of communication, facebook, our protagonist heard of nasty dealings afoot in rural Finland. Helsinki itself is, she feels, trying to address the collision of historical homogeneity and contemporary diversity in a number of ways. The things it’s possible to say in this country, about people who are ‘not like us’ that stereotype and thus limit people’s lives, still startle her, but she is somewhat used to it and appreciates that for a country where homogeneity and consensus have been raised to such prominent political positions international immigration is bound to be challenging.
Alas, a controversial piece of news which was later denied in part, demonstrates the depth of the problems Finland faces. Even if the article’s claims about the role of the Finnish Red Cross turn out to be invalid, the contents are pretty f***ing shocking.
Here’s a synopsis based on the YLE report on the story, which demonstrates quite well the kinds of processes and thought processes associated with migration:
Asylum seekers’ movements restricted in Kontionlahti
In the village of Kontioniemi the Finnish Red Cross (FRC) and the Village Association (Kyläyhdistys) have made a mutual agreement to recommend that the residents of the reception centre for asylum seekers avoid, among other places, the municipality’s public football ground. The agreement stipulates that the local indigenous population (kantaväestö) has the right to request reception centre residents to vacate the field. Kontionlahti municipality claims no part in the agreement.
The Village Association had earlier written to local authorities to complain about problems with the centre, opened last March.
According to the member of the Village Association responsible for asylum seekers, the authority has not undertaken the necessary steps to remove the problems.
– The refugees drop litter, move around in groups, are noisy and they use the village football pitch. The municipality washes its hands of the affair, so we’ve started to create the foundations of our own refugee policies, he explains.
Local agreement on restrictions
The Village Association has pressured the FRC into agreeing on use restrictions for the residents of the reception centre. It is now recommended that asylum seekers avoid the football pitch as well as the viewing point on Kontioniemi peninsula. Use of the public beach is being negotiated and the FRC is looking into creating new facilities specially for use of refugees.
In the mean time, the Village Association rep emphasised that asylum seekers can be guided away politely.
FSR: We’re not refusing, we’re recommending
According to the FRC it is not a question of refusing access.
– We’re talking about a recommendation. We have informed residents in the centre of the situation and they’ve been told there’s no more going into those areas.
The FRC rep is unable to answer the question, how is it possible to restrict the use of public space by specified social groups. He acknowledges that such an agreement has no legal force, they are simply trying to do what’s best for both the asylum seekers and the local indigenous population.
Local leadership unaware of the agreement
The municipality prefers to wash its hands of the entire story. According to a representative,
– We don’t recognise these kinds of agreements between local groups. We can’t after all prevent our beach or sports ground from being used by someone from Juuka or a German. (translator’s note: juuTalainen = Jew, juuKalainen=inhabitant of Juuka).
– The Village Association claims asylum seekers haven’t understood traffic regulations. But not all Finns know traffic signs either. If there have been real problems, the only people authorised to deal with them is the police. Under no circumstances can the municipality restrict people’s movements.
He added that he didn’t believe all locals agree with these statements by the Village Association.
Based on story by YLE – Northern Karelia
Later the Finnish Red Cross denied its part in the agreement but acknowledge it was looking for alternative venues for the use of asylum seekers. YLE published a retraction of that part of the story.
FRC: Asylum seekers’ movements are not being restricted
I thought I’d post a picture of some others who move around in groups and tend to drop litter. Though our narrator says she is beginning to be a bit more tolerant of them. Is it just getting used to them, as well as trying to see things from their perspective? Though I gather she is keeping her eyes open for initiatives to try and domesticate their increasingly feral habits!