Saturday June 25, 2022

Election campaign in anti-immigrant sentiment unfortunate

Published : 31 Jan 2019, 12:34

  Editor`s Desk

DF File Photo.

The incident of sexual abuse against under-aged girls by some rejected asylum-seekers in Oulu is not only shocking but also one of the heinous acts. We strongly protest at the incident and demand immediate trials of the criminals. We want their punishment, if they are criminals. It does not matter whether they are immigrants, or refugees, or native Finns. A criminal is a criminal. We do not have any option to make differences between the criminals on the basis of nation, race, group, or ethnicity.

As the Oulu case is sensitive, the law enforcement agency should take intensive measures to ensure the punishment to each and every criminal. But we are concerned when we see the political parties, particularly the ruling parties, make it a political agenda. The crime was committed by a few criminals having immigrant background. But the government has already initiated moves generalising all the immigrants, although most of the immigrants have no link to the incident. The moves include the cancellation of the holding Finnish passports by people having immigrant background, the cancellation of permanent residence permit of immigrants for serious crimes in addition to legal trial. So far I know that the Oulu crimes were committed by rejected asylum-seekers, who have neither Finnish passports nor residence permits. Even a police risk assessment report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) published recently said that only two percent of asylum-seekers, who received negative asylum decision, pose security threats. We politely want to ask the government why it is thinking about amendments to the laws related to the immigrants only for criminal activities of a few rejected asylum-seekers. We hope that the authorities will follow one of the basic concepts of Jurisprudence that “100 culprits may let go free but no innocent should be punished.”

The situation created further panic among thousands of innocent immigrants in the country when the Prime Minister, Speaker of the parliament and Interior Minister made separate statements on the Oulu incident.

The Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, pointing out the incident, said that legislation is being changed to make it easier to expel foreigners guilty of aggravated crimes. The Speaker of the parliament, Paula Risikko, demanded that “Finland should strip criminals of residence permits." The Interior Minister, Kai Mykkänen, was one step forward in this regard. He urged tougher punishment on sex offenders who are immigrants or asylum-seekers although we are confused about the legal basis of tougher punishment for immigrants and softer punishment for natives for the same crime. Highlighting the single incident, the government also placed an idea in the parliament to think about revising international deals concerning immigrants.

Such remarks from the responsible authorities may make the immigrants more helpless as it may provoke the anti-immigrants against the immigrants.

According to police, the racial relations in Oulu have already become tense by this time. Senior police officer Markus Kiiskinen told national Finnish language daily Helsingin Sanomat that police have noticed the change in atmosphere. Kiiskinen noted that perhaps because of the atmosphere, asylum-seekers are no longer seen sitting around in the leading shopping mall. “Earlier it was their regular hangout.”

Although unfortunate, it is very much clear that the political leaders are trying to focus on the issue to gain support in the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for April. If they are really serious about the sexual abuse against under-aged children, they should also highlight all sexual abuses against children without differentiating foreign or local criminals. Did they issue statements on any of more than 80 cases of alleged sexual abuse of children by native Finns in Oulu last year? Even they did not make any statement against the schoolteacher in Helsinki who abused five students sexually. The Helsinki District Court in mid-December convicted the teacher to an 18-month suspended imprisonment. Earlier in October, a female music teacher of a Vantaa school was sentenced to nearly five years’ imprisonment for sexual abuse of her pupils. The teacher was convicted of sexual acts with two boys of 12 to 15 years old. Did the government consider to enact any law to ensure safe environment in school for children following the two separate incidents? No, because these two teachers do not represent the whole teacher community. The same way, the few criminals in Oulu do not represent the whole immigrant community. Why does the government move to bring legislative changes to immigrant acts?

Considering the circumstances and the overall situation, it is very much clear that the political leaders are trying to gain more support in the election using anti-immigrant sentiment. But we believe the Finnish norms do not support any discrimination or racial activities. People will understand the intentional campaign as part of the ill political motives.

Our question is: if the Prime Minister, Speaker and Interior Minister take stark stand against the immigrants only for votes, from whom the helpless innocent immigrants will get protection?