07 Oct

No Stones!

nostones

The Finnish Red Cross Youth take a stand on the situation of asylum seekers and the violent tone of the immigration debate in Finland. Share this text in your social networks with hashtag #nostones. You can also download No Stones badge and post it in your social media profile.

The tone of the immigration debate changed overnight at the end of September, when stones were hurled at a Red cross employee at a reception centre’s gate. The initial shock was followed by concern over our volunteers and the people living in the reception centre. In the end, we were left with a sense of confusion: what do the stones tell us? What is the alternative being offered when people suggest Finland to leave the needy without help?

Everyone who has been forced to leave their home is under distress. Because of the crises in Syria, Iraq and Somalia, there are now more refugees in the world than ever since World War Two: approximately 60 million. As we are astonished by the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland, we tend to forget that most of them stay in neighbouring countries that are close to their home. Only a few will continue on and take the unsafe trip to Europe. Some of these people have already arrived at our doorsteps, however.

Helping is not a matter of choice. According to the Constitution, we must protect foreigners who are under threat of facing the death penalty, torture or other treatment violating their human dignity in their country of origin. All people must be treated with dignity and they must be guaranteed essential health services, regardless of their nationality. It has been internationally agreed that Finland will handle asylum applications, take care of the people arriving here, and to provide the people who have been granted asylum the chance to start a new life in their new home country.

 Speaking on behalf of those in need of help

The Finnish Red Cross does not take a stand on who should be welcomed to Finland and who should be left outside our borders. Our mission is to help people, regardless of their background or the reason they have come here, and to support the authorities in their work now that hundreds of asylum seekers arrive in Finland every day. By acting and speaking on behalf of those in need of help, we are making their voices heard – the people who the Red Cross has already helped in their countries of origin, at refugee camps, at European ports, and now in Finland. The aid organized together by the Red Cross and the authorities helps others than just the people arriving here: by offering them vaccinations, for example, we are promoting the health of everyone living in Finland.

We hope that the stones thrown at the reception centre’s courtyard in September will be the last. In any event, we will continue our activities in supporting the asylum seekers. To our delight, thousands of Finns have chosen to participate in the help organized by the Red Cross and other organizations. In September alone, we received a thousand new members instead of the usual one hundred. What is more, the result from the Hunger Day Collection was the third best of all time.

It has been wonderful to see that every third volunteer that we have received during the autumn is under 29 years old. This means that many young people want to take a stand for humanity by doing something – by grabbing a collection box, by becoming a volunteer at reception centre, or by taking part in multi-cultural activities.

At the same time, we have noticed that the discussion among the people close to the Red Cross Youth, at school and among their friends, has become harsher. It is easy, especially in the social media, to stick only to facts that support one’s own vision of things and fire racist comments that would be left unsaid face to face. And as the media talks of asylum seekers as a flood, stream or mass, it becomes difficult to keep in mind that the “mass” is made up of persons, each with their own story to tell. The most effective way to alleviate one’s fears towards immigrants is to be brave and meet them face to face – as two human beings.

The world is already at our door

The Red Cross Youth demands asylum seekers to be treated with dignity and encourages everyone to reflect on the effect that their attitudes may have on their own living environment. The world is already at our door. As as society, we cannot welcome only people who we think are useful to us in a way defined by the Finnish people, based on our own experiences and premises. If we do this, we are categorizing people based on our own prejudices. Even though adapting to a new country is not always easy, we want to remind people that within every person who comes here there lies an opportunity. Combined with the expertise of the people already living in Finland, their skills and capacities can enrich Finland, both materially and mentally.

Otto Kari

Vice President, the Finnish Red Cross

Youth General Assembly 2015

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