maanantai 21. joulukuuta 2009

Russia Today: The Finn end of the wedge

Russia Today: The Finn end of the wedge 21.12.2009

One of the highest rates of immigrants in Europe is drawing fears from Finns. Some are concerned that immigrants, attracted by Finland's generous welfare packages and high living standards, will overrun their country.

Now, areas with immigrants’ shops and housing dominating them can be found in Helsinki as easily as in any other European city. Twenty years ago, such places simply did not exist. And last year, Finland had the highest level of immigration since World War II.

The number of foreigners in the country has risen sixfold since 1990. Although they still constitute only 3 percent of the population, that growth rate is one of the highest in the world.

Finnish opposition politician Jussi Halla-aho is an anti-immigration blogger. His blog has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. Halla-aho was sued for defamation in a high-profile freedom of speech trial, and his views are ignored by mainstream parties.

“We are faithfully repeating every mistake Sweden, for example, has made before us,” Halla-aho says. “Most Finnish cities will be surrounded by a ring of burning ghettoes.”

While other European countries have tightened up conditions for asylum seekers, Finland still offers them a very good welfare package. But polls show that the population is finding the newcomers hard to accept.

The Head of Section for Europe Immigration Unit Olli Koskipirtti from the Finnish Immigration Service claims that, despite all their efforts, the immigration officials always are seen as opponents.

“We are doing a good job, but we are always like ‘the enemy’ whatever happens,” Koskipirtti told RT.

Those who come to Finland seeking asylum are initially housed in specially-equipped facilities. They can go outside to look for work and housing, but most speak no Finnish, and cannot find a job.

A couple from Togo arrived in Finland with their daughter several weeks ago. Whether or not the authorities believe their story will determine whether they will be allowed to remain here.

Pekka Nuutinen, currently based in Metsälä Reception Centre, says that her husband was imprisoned in Togo for his political views.

“He escaped, and God knows how we came here,” she adds. “We are happy with the conditions in Finland, and we want to stay.”

Regardless of whether the asylum application will be successful or not, they are likely to face a life of relative poverty – and the attitudes of a country that has seen the face of mass migration and appears to be turning against it.