Tag Archives: Asylum seekers

Presidentti kertoo muuttoliikkeestä

Presidentti Sauli Niinistö kertoi äsken, että pitää varautua mittavaaan muuttoliikkeen Itä-rajan kautta. Mitä mä taas rapportoin siitä?

 

Hyvä, että tästä avoimesti puhutaan.

 

 

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Poverty, inequality, social exclusion and asylum seekers

I am veering off the normal topics of this blog lately, but since the issues relating to violent radicalism quite likely have to do with working life in many ways, I think I am excused for posting some thoughts on the topics in the title. It is nearly a random collection of thoughts and I do not claim any coherence. I am only presenting some issues I am thinking about – I am not presenting the perfect explanation for radicalisation or such issues. A background is that as a Dutch person living in Finland I am appalled at the sudden level of hatred against “others”. Of course not everybody (fortunately) condones this kind of thinking. Another background for this post is this essay that I read in the weekend as it became clear what happened in Paris. Probably there are many things that can be argued with, but I think many points are quite valid.

So, here are some thoughts:

  • Poverty is shown to be quite hereditery, although this also depends on the effects of the welfare state. One stylized fact in the social sciences and I think also in economics is that poverty is very costly for society. Poverty relief is a complicated issue, and also in rich countries like Finland there are increasing numbers of (materially) poor people, with all the consequences for health etc. So, why is there no stronger effort to deal with poverty?
  • Idea for an answer: politicians, civil servants and research instutes are so obsessed with labour costs, because they are trapped in economic models (which give “exact” answers) which treat labour/people as a resource, i.e. as a supply side variable, that unemployment/poverty is a positive phenomenon in terms of overall labour cost levels. This is a very cynical idea, but the view of humans in economic models is well known to be extremely simplistic.

 

  • Inequality and social exclusion. These two are of course very much related with poverty and poverty is often a result of these. In the light of the article by Enzenberger, I am just wondering – why aren’t Finnish people not more afraid of the young, frustrated men that have trouble getting a foothold in the labour market (or society), especially in rural areas? It appears that the school shooters in Jokela and Kauhajoki a few years back exhibit very similar traits to what Enzenberger describes in his essay. I am not qualified to analyze the personal situations of these shooters in psychological terms or relating to social exclusion, but at least on the face of it there seems to be more in common between these young men and those Enzenberger describes than many would like to admit.

 

  • In relation to that – if Finnish people are so afraid (gross generalization) of terrorists among asylum seekers, shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure asylum seekers don’t become men (and women) who experience the things Enzenberger describes (broadly social exclusion) instead of reinforcing the Us vs. Them thematic? Finland still has a welfare state that is geared towards minimizing inequality (although it is clearly not perfect), shouldn’t we use this opportunity to reform the welfare state in such a way that the newcomers/asylumseekers don’t fall in the same kind of income traps that many Finns find themselves in?

These are some thoughts that are in my head. I understand the Finns’ Parties statements about “people are afraid” but perhaps in a slightly different way – maybe the arrival of asylum seekers opens the eyes of many who suddenly see the pitfalls of the Finnish welfare state. These are a fact and there are alternatives. In any case, thinking of human needs and humanitarian aid, I think we should not actively make policies or strengthen social tendencies that actually would make asylum seekers more likely to radicalize.

 

Asylum seekers ARE coming through Russia to Finland. Now we see the failure of individual countries closing borders.

This link. Unfortunately I don’t have the access rights to the whole article, but the title of the article says enough: “The pressure at the Eastern Border grows – More and more asylum seekers arrive in Finland through Raja-Jooseppi.” Ok, the numbers are small (67 this year, until 3.11.2015) but still.

This article from Maaseudun Tulevaisuus Newspaper mentions that in one week 50 asylum seekers crossed the border. The article was also from 3.11.

In this article I mentioned the interview with Robert Visser who predicted this (growing) flow. We should urgently make sure (given the Finnish winter!) that there are sufficient resources to receive and process these asylum seekers. Furthermore, now one can very concretely see what awesome failure Europe’s countries’ reaction to the flow of refugees is.

 

 

About asylum seekers and the route of least resistance in the face of the suspension of Schengen

This morning I read this article from Dutch newspaper Trouw, entitled (translated) “The new route to Europe leads to Finland through Russia.”

First digression – did you know there is an European Asylum Support Office, and that it was led by a Dutch person (Robert Visser), whose five-year term is just over? Well, neither did I.

The second paragraph of the article reads (my translation):

“They arrive at the very Northernmost tip of Finland. That was not foreseen in any scenario. They all come via Russia. This is yet another indication that these movements are largely organized. You do not invent by yourself, if you are in the Middle east: I’m going to northern Russia and cross the border there. ”
The latest figures from the EU statistics agency Eurostat indeed show a huge increase in the number of asylum seekers in Finland. In January the figure was 305. In August 2890 arrived, followed by no less than 10 815 in September. Most of them (9090) were Iraqis. According to Visser  there is a ‘reasoned expectation ” that this trend continues.”

I am not concerned here with what the Finnish government did or did not say about the expected numbers; that is a matter of domestic politics (and also the reasons why Iraqis are coming). Rather, I want to draw attention to that map of Europe.

Apparently the goal of many asylum seekers is to arrive eventually in Germany – probably regarding the economic situation there or the relatively welcoming stance of the country.

Remember that a while ago some countries “temporarily” suspended the Schengen agreement? Well, look at those borders again. How many borders do you have to cross supposing Schengen is in force still, if you arrive in e.g. Italy or Greece and you want to go to Germany? Right, only the first border. Now the situation is different with Austria building fences and Slovenia in and Hungary fenced off. Look at this graph from the NY Times, which is already out of date of course.

So in a short time the numbers of borders that have to be crossed increased, and at each border the asylum seekers experience hardship. So look at that map again – if you leave from Northern Iraq or Syria through Turkey and then cross the borders in Georgia and Russia (or by boat straight from Turkey to Russia), then the route through Russia to Europe is entirely logical to end in Finland, especially given the attitudes of Eastern European countries towards asylum seekers.

I guess my broader point is that (obviously) shutting the borders doesn’t make the problem go away. It just forces the streams to find a less interrupted route. The point Visser makes about the “organized” nature of asylum seeker flows is important, but in my opinion flawed – it just takes information about the state of the borders and what obstacles asylum seekers may face. They will find their way – the example of biking across the border is instructive in this sense. They use information about the rules to their advantage.

In the context of this all, I would like to add that bombing traffickers is not the solution. The asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq leave because it is not safe there. They can come entirely over land if they wish – for instance to Finland.

Regarding reactions: this is a potential foreign policy issue for Finland regarding Russia. And no, building a fence is unlikely to succeed.