Foreign Minister Stubb defends immigration and multiculturalism
Minister laments tone of debate, says grandmothers should be allowed to stay
“Finland needs to be international and multicultural”, says Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party). In his view, Finland’s current debate on immigration has taken on a negative slant.
“The point of view that is critical to immigration, the extreme part of it, dominates debate. The debate is excessively one-sided. It reeks of racism, nationalism, populism, and xenophobia. It is very unpleasant”, Stubb says.
Stubb gave his interview at his own initiative. “The topic is close to my heart”, Stubb says, explaining why he is commenting on a matter that does not directly pertain to his ministerial portfolio.
“I have seen few people lately who would have said that immigration would be a good thing for Finland”, Stubb says.
He states unequivocally: “Granting asylum is just and humane. Helping refugees is ethically right. Work-based immigration is a tremendous asset for Finland.”
According to Stubb, the problem with immigration debate in Finland is that the various nuances of immigration are not distinguished.
Stubb lists the variants; people come to Finland for work, as asylum seekers, as refugees, and as quota refugees.
He denounces as low-brow populism the linkage of asylum seekers with abuse of social welfare.
While emphasising the benefits of multiculturalism and internationalism, Stubb also feels that open debate is necessary on problems that are linked with immigration.
“There are two problems. Finnish society has attitude problems in accepting immigrants. On the other hand, the Finnish system has been poorly prepared to take asylum seekers in a situation in which their numbers have grown significantly. We need to take issue with these problems.”
Stubb admits that Finland is too attractive a destination for asylum seekers. “We have tried to do something about this during this government term.”
In February the basic part of income supplements paid to asylum seekers was cut, and part of the support is being given in the form of food. Processing applications has also been speeded up.
Citizens are angered that so many asylum seekers come from Bulgaria and Romania, both of whom are members of the European Union, and considered safe countries. The government plans to abolish income supplements for asylum seekers from EU countries.
“Immigration needs to feel fair. It needs to be fair toward the person who comes, but also toward those people who maintain this and pay for the system - us Finns.”
Foreign Minister Stubb supports the minister responsible for immigration matters, Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party), saying that Thors has one of the most difficult and most sensitive tasks in the government.
“We do not necessarily agree on everything, but Thors has dealt with her task quite well”, Stubb says.
The immigration issue has divided the National Coalition Party to some degree. Wille Rydman, chairman of the party’s youth organisation, has come out against emphasising multiculturalism. He also feels that Finland should stop taking in “quota refugees”.
Stubb rejectes Rydman’s ideas, noting that there are people like him in every party. “Their thoughts have nothing to do with the immigration policy line of the National Coalition Party. Nothing at all”, Stubb emphasises.
He will not say how much support the policy line promoted by Rudman has within the party. “I believe and I hope that as little as possible.”
Foreign Minister Stubb said that it is his personal opinion that two foreign grandmothers, Egyptian citizen Eveline Fadayel, and Russian Irina Antonova should not be deported from Finland.
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled last week Both Fadayel, 65, and Antonova, 81, should not be allowed to stay in Finland with their families.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Unexpected debate over quota refugees (25.2.2010)
Immigration experts face racist harassment (16.3.2010)
Survey: Finns´ attitudes toward immigration have become more negative (15.3.2010)