Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Finnish immigration and Alfredo Jarr

A couple of months ago now I went to see the Alfredo Jarr exhibition, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.  One installation really stood out and has stayed with me since; One Million Finnish Passports.

Art critic Patricia C Phillips said of this installation....
Without mirrors, lightboxes, or other things that glow in the dark, Jaar constructed one of his most minimal, yet emphatic projects. Negotiating modern and postmodern strategies, he constructed a great, room-sized rectangle. This immense austerity was produced by an enormous accumulation of ersatz passports. This great collection symbolized the restrictive nationalism of Finland. Compared to other European nations, Finland has the lowest number of immigrants and refugees. Maintaining inhospitable, restrictive policies, Finland has guarded its status quo at a time when other countries are re-examining their moral and political positions on refugees and exiles. The one million documents were, of course, replicas of actual passports. With their dimensions slightly altered, they could not easily pass for the real document. It was an ironic reflection of the nation's exclusive immigration policies. No one was going to pass as a legitimate traveller or tourist with one of Jaar's specially-produced booklets.
Assembled in a formidable arrangement, they collectively represented the number of people who have been turned away from Finland. Its great order represented the harmony and symmetry of the protected monolithic culture of Finland. It was only recently that the United Nations Human Rights Committee challenged Finland for its strict, repressive policies.
Because of the security threat, Jaar's installation was walled off behind tall glass. But this did not discourage one act of critical solidarity. A visitor tossed his own passport into the installation in a vivid demonstration of his political and psychological affiliation with the million aliens excluded by Finland's aged hermeticism.
"What is Found Here"
Patricia C. Phillips 

Last week I sat down and spoke with Erika Jokinen, head of immigration services; we met Erika in our first week in Hameenlinna at an event she had helped organise for European Week Against Racism.  She's become a good friend since then and really welcomed us here when we first arrived.   Erika does an amazing job in Hammenlinna but of course because she is employed by the city she can not give opinion on immigration only fact - so here are many facts on Finnish immigration....stories later!
What kind of social services exist in Hameenlinna for immigrants?
Immigrants come with various backgrounds. Special social services (including integration training) are provided for refugees and asylum seekers when they are settling (three years period). Immigrants coming because of other reasons (work, family etc.) and with intention to stay permanently can use the basic social services (more about these from:
How many immigrants per year come to Hameenlinna as well as Finland?  Has this number risen in recent years?
There are about 2500 immigrants (or speaking other languages than Finnish/Swedish) living in Hämeenlinna (2013), 2,9% of the total population. The number is rising, in year 2008 the ratio was 1,8%. In Finland, the rise of the population is almost totally (90%) depending of immigration.
More information about immigration in Finland:

I recently saw the Alfredo Jarr exhibition at the Kiasma in Helsinki.  Part of the exhibition was an installation with one million Finnish passports which represented people that were not admitted to Finland because of the harsh immigration policy when Finland first entered the EU. 

Do you think Finnish immigration policy has improved since this time?

Finnish immigration policy is quite strict. In particular, it seems that getting permit on the basis of family-relationship when applying outside EU is nowadays harder. You’ll find more specific information e.g. : 

How can you support immigrants in Hameenlinna with this rise in support of anti-immigration feeling?

The policy of Hämeenlinna is taken into action according to many different political programmes. One of those programmes is the multiculturalism programme, and one of the basic values of that programme is equality. The values are taken in consideration in all services that city provides, eg. primary education, cultural activities etc.
 Questions about media and politics are many faceted as you know, and I think these are hard to answer other way than from personal point of view – so I think you find more objective information eg. from: (Finnish network against racism and xenofobia)
Or official politics of Finland:
More practical kind of information:

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