You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Migration’ tag.
The True Finns parliament member Teuvo Hakkarainen has told the evening tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that he would like to see all minorities moved to the Åland islands, the autonomous unilingual Swedish-speaking province between mainland Finland and Sweden.
In a telephone conversation with the newspaper, he noted that the Swedish People’s Party often criticise the True Finns for not showing consideration to minority groups. He said he’s like to see homosexuals and Somalis moved to Åland so that we could see “how such a model society could be developed. There Somalis could cry from their minarets and we can follow the developments from here”.
It will be interesting to see how his remarks are received by the party leadership. True Finns’ party chairman Timo Soini recently declared that his party “hates nobody” and has previously had to distance himself from the more obviously extreme comments from his party members. Can he really allow a person who believes in forced resettlement and the creation of ghettos to represent his party in Parliament? Another test of the truth in Soini’s repeated claims that his party is against discrimination and intolerance.
An opinion survey ordered by the Swedish-speaking think tank ‘Magma’ has concluded that Swedish-speaking Finns are significantly more positive in their attitudes towards immigration than the Finnish-speaking population.
In January 2009, around 40% of Finnish-speakers questioned in an opinion poll answered that they had the same or partly the same opinion on the statement “an increase in the number of foreigners brings with it useful international influences”. When Magma’s survey asked Swedish-speakers the same question in September this year, 75% of respondents gave this answer.
It is interesting to speculate why Swedish-speakers are, on average, more positive towards immigrant groups. One theory is that Swedish-speakers, as a minority group, find it easier to empathise with other people who find themselves in a similar minority situation. After all, many Swedish-speakers have to make compromises when it comes to their language and habits in order to live their life in an increasingly Finnish-language dominated environment. This experience may cause Swedish-speakers to be more sympathetic towards the demands that ‘trying to fit in’ brings for immigrants. Some people also argue that the average Swedish-speaker is, on average, more international in his or her outlook than the the average Finnish-speaker. Swedish-speakers have often nurtured contacts with the outside world, especially the other Nordic countries, with a greater vivacity. Another argument is that there is a greater degree of community involvement amongst Swedish-speakers who have a more developed “association culture”. This may foster a greater degree of what is known in Swedish as medmänsklighet, roughly “solidarity with your fellow man” or “brotherliness”, amongst those living in Svenskfinland. Of course, all such theories come with their controversies, the stark difference in attitudes is, whatever the reason for them, highly interesting.
It would be fair to assume that the answer to this question is yes. At least if you base your conclusion on product packaging and many signs in Finland. All the more often, the Swedish version of text on product wrappers and on signs is less visible and often even less comprehensive than that of the Finnish version. More rarely, it’s simply badly or wrongly translated. So, it’s an often heard joke amongst Swedish speakers that a person has to have good eyesight to be Swedish-speaking.
The capital of our country, Helsingfors as we call it in Swedish, Helsinki in Finnish, is in fact Finland’s largest Swedish-speaking municipality if one goes by the raw number of Swedish-speaking Finns living there. There are roughly 30 000 Swedish-speakers in our capital, although it’s overall large population means that today these account for only slightly over 6% of the entire residents. But from its foundation by King Gustav Vasa in 1550 all the way until around the turn of the twentieth century, Swedish-speakers were in the majority. During the twentieth century, virtually the whole of Nyland (Uusimaa), but especially the capital, saw massive internal migration as thousands of Finnish-speakers from the interior of the country flocked to the more affluent south. Whilst they undoubtedly gave much to our nation’s economic progress, they had the side effect of irrevocably changing the language situation in many historically Swedish environs – a process that continues even today.
In today’s Helsinki, few Swedish-speaking Helsinki residents (at least those below around 60) bother to start conversations in Swedish in shops, businesses and often even with the authorities (who are legally obliged to offer services in both national languages). The frustration with being met by someone who does not understand or does not want to understand is just all too common. Yet, even in an ever more monolingual capital, there are still spaces that are exceptions to this rule. Places such as in branches of Aktia (a bank), certain known Swedish-speaking cafeteria hangouts and other traditionally Swedish-speaking-owned businesses and of course Stockmann are still thought, by many, to be places where one can naturally speak Swedish without causing oneself too many problems.
It has therefore caused a minor controversy – at least within the pages of Hufvudstadsbladet (slang: Husis) – that Stockmann (slang: Stokis) has, for the first time that at least anyone can remember, placed advertising signs outside its main central Helsinki department store in which the Swedish-text is not afforded equal coverage with the Finnish version. That the adverts also use the Finnish slang word ‘Stocka’ instead of the Swedish slang ‘Stokis’ even in the Swedish text just adds insult to injury. Stockmann’s marketing director brushes off criticism of both these matters saying that they had to make the Swedish text smaller as otherwise the advert’s picture would not have fit on the banner.
The title picture is taken a while back inside the then-newly opened extension of S-market in Borgå. The Finnish text directs the shopper towards the sugar (‘sokerit’). The Swedish shopper is sent to buy socks (‘sockor’, Swedish for sugar is ‘socker’). Source: Borgåbladet
Astrid Thors has announced that she will stand as a Swedish People’s Party (Sfp) candidate in her hometown, Helsinki, in October’s municipal election. Thors has never before been a candidate at municipal level. She has, however, previously been a civil servant at municipal level and worked for the Association of Municipalities. She has also served in the European Parliament.
According to a press release released by Sfp, Thors, who currently represents Helsinki as a member of parliament, says it’s “natural to also engage in municipal level politics”.
Thors is the Europe and Migration Minister in Finland’s government and has been involved in driving through more immigrant friendly policies. The Swedish People’s Party has one of the most positive attitudes towards immigration of Finland’s political parties. According to Sfp’s press release, Thors said that “As minister with responsibility for integration policies, I know that it is the municipalities that are decisive if integration policy is to succeed”.
Thors also believes that it’s vital that Helsinki is developed so that all of its citizens have sufficient recreation areas and access to sports facilities suitable for all ages. She also believes that elderly care must be improved and that it must be possible that service is available in one’s native language, “that includes elderly people with other mother tongues than Swedish and Finnish”.
Minister Thors was born and grew up in Haga and has lived in both Vallgård (Vallila) and Ulrikasborg (Ullanlinna). She currently lives in Tölö.
Finland has a way to go yet until we can truly make a claim to being a multi-cultural society. Compared to the vast majority of western European countries, we have had fair less immigration. A contrast that is notable should you travel to our western neighbour Sweden, where more than one in ten persons where born outside of Sweden.
However, the government is now trying to encourage immigration. Just as in other European countries, this is made all the more necessary to fill jobs that Finnish people do not wish to perform. Finnish migration law and services are gradually being improved and reformed largely due to the efforts and leadership of Astrid Thors (sfp), Finland’s minister of migration.
One of the areas of our country that has shown the greatest success and most welcoming attitude towards immigrants is, interestingly, coastal Österbotten. Particularly the rural monolingual Swedish speaking municipality of Närpes has been recognised as the model to follow for integration. Immigrants have been welcomed into the community in a much more genuine and unanimous way than in many other areas of the country. Some have theorised that Swedish-speaking areas have been more accepting of immigrants because Swedish-speakers understand how it is to be in the position of a minority and are thus more accepting. The Swedish Peoples Party SFP is also very favourable in its views on immigration. There was even a line “Too few immigrants” in the last parliamentary election campaign song.
Now the main Swedish language newspapers in Österbotten (Vasabladet, Österbottens Tidning and Syd-Österbotten) have started publishing a regular update of translated news articles of interest to immigrants under the name GIIÖB. The languages are English, Serbian-Croat, Vietnamese and Russian.
Picture of Astrid Thors: Statsrådet, The Finnish government – Lehtikuva Oy/Ab. Second picture: Map of municipalities of Swedish-speaking Österbotten. The area on the western coast from Kristinestad in the south to Karleby (Kokkola) in the north.