Finland has ratified the international conventions for human rights. Right now Finland is not living up to these and it is appalling. For example, refugees and asylum seekers rights are at an absolute minimum standard and it is not fully clear if all decisions and cases that Finland has decided would pass an investigation by the International Court of Human Rights. Within refugee politics we need to ask ourselves where the interpretation of “what is best for the children” comes in when families are split apart and when mothers have demonstrably been victims of human trafficking and do not get residence visa in our country. For unaccompanied children is it almost impossible to be reunited with their families in Finland.
It is because of the xenophobic attitudes that rage in Finland (and Europe) today that the idea has spread that the rights the conventions outline are not binding. When people, leaders and politicians no longer see the rights (and responsibilities to uphold them) are crucial to retain our democracy and in the long run peace, it can be disturbing. Right populism, nationalism and extremists threaten to destroy the foundations we stand upon.
I want Finland to be a forerunner in these matters as Finland has been previously!
Asylum and refugee politics
Included in human rights is a legal process where we can rely on authorities and decision makers within the judicial system to be fair. Everyone does not have the right to asylum but it is everyone’s right to be able to apply for asylum and have a decision based on individual examination and legally secure treatment.
Finland’s current asylum politics does not meet this criteria. Those of us that work or volunteer, time and time again come across cases that prove this. The asylum seekers rights to assistance in interviews and during other parts of the process has been restricted by the current government. Asylum based on humanitarian grounds has been abolished by the same government. The processes have been carelessly completed and several examinations of this has demonstrated that the decisions have not been made for the individual but in some sense for groups. A gender perspective is also missing from the asylum process and as mentioned above, victims of human trafficking should be given asylum. Currently only about a quarter are granted asylum.
With the current asylum politics we will also have a greater challenge of an increased number of undocumented people on our streets and this benefits no one. Undocumented people are the most vulnerable in our society, can easily become victims of human trafficking as well as victims of different types of slavery and prostitution by both Finns and their countrymen. Undocumented people are also easily recruited by criminal gangs of all caliber.
One way for Finland to take its international responsibility within refugee politics is by increasing the refugee quota considerably from the 750 people per year that it is currently. Unlike asylum seekers, quota refugees arrive in Finland with the knowledge that they can stay in the country. That often means that quota refugees can feel calmer and conditions for integration are greater.
”We see integration as a two-way process that involves positive change in both the individuals and the host communities and which leads to cohesive, multicultural communities” Dr Alison Strang.
The reasons behind Finland’s official integration politics program today is that those newly arrived should learn the language and after receive and education that is to lead to employment. Integration is however not only to learn the language and receive an education. Individual integration progressions are different. Integration is about inclusion and creating structure that facilitates establishment, not only in work life, but also in social life.
Integration has many dimensions and many directions. The most important for a successful integration is social contacts and context. This means that the society in which you are to establish yourself should accept the knowledge, competence and experience that you can share. Finland must become better at creating flexible solutions to be able to soak up the resources that diversity can contribute with.
I want to see that families with an immigrant background have the possibility of an equal family life by combining training and family leave. The risk is that the mother stays home for 12 months or more while the father is further along in his integration process. This means that entering work life and society can be a greater challenge for women with immigrant backgrounds.
Knowledge of officials within the social sector, education and childcare must also increase. One solution is to use positive allocations in the employment process for a greater diversity in service branches.
In work life we should create opportunities to learn the language parallel to work training. With the current inflexible system you start with learning the language and integration education first, and then only afterwards work training is started. Some people can go from placement to placement without permanent employment. It can take up to 10 years or more before you are integrated in work life and frustration and hopelessness for the individual grows.
People who come to Finland for studying in turn can have difficulties entering the work market. The application process is coloured by structural discrimination and a foreign name can mean not even being called for an interview. This must change.
We need to reform parental leave for a more flexible model that can give parents greater choice. Swedish People’s Party’s 6+6+6 model strengthens the mother’s role in work life and the father’s role as a care giver. This model needs to be extended so that families with an immigrant background can also benefit from a more equal family life.
The climate is our generation’s critical issue and research shows that we need to act now. I understand the youths’ frustration that many know about it, but nothing happens. It is our most important question and therefore we need to do what we can and see that all in society can act responsibly. In some parts of the world deforestation is occurring on a large scale without new trees being planted. I worked with a project in Somalia in 2017 to encourage people to plant new trees. I saw with my own eyes how people we targeted had been affected by climate change leading to absent rainy seasons or flooding. Even though I was aware of climate change before this project, I got a wake-up call and understood that I was also part of the problem.
After this insight, I wanted to change my habits and do as much as I could. We can all do more at a personal level. Finland’s climate goals are to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% by 2040. If this is to be achieved we need to take more steps on a broader level in society. Emissions should decrease drastically within all sectors, for example in energy production, traffic, homes, agriculture and industries. The forests ability to store carbon should be greater reflected upon and energy use in all areas of society become more effective.
It is time to show determination, both on a personal level but also on a national one!