Pablo Veyrat: The immigration panic and the Estonian media

The Tallinn-based Spanish journalist, Pablo Veyrat, analyses the possible reasons behind the recent survey which showed that one-fifth of the Estonian population considers immigration to be the biggest problem, despite the fact that the country hasn’t received a single asylum seeker from the proposed EU quota.

A survey taken last month has found 21% of Estonians considers immigration to be the biggest problem Estonia is facing at the moment. Unemployment was second, chosen by 12% of the respondents.

The question is the following: how did 21% of Estonians come to consider immigration their main national worry when the country is yet to receive a single asylum seeker from the assigned European Union quota? Or, in other words, why so many people are troubled about something they do not know from first hand? The answer must then lie in what has been said to them about the immigration crisis.

“The question is the following: how did 21% of Estonians come to consider immigration their main national worry when the country is yet to receive a single asylum seeker from the assigned European Union quota?”

This leads me to think, despite my limitations as an observer – remember my shamefully low command of the Estonian language – that the Estonian media has not been able to inform the public with enough accuracy on all the elements involved in the current refugee crisis. At the same time, this informative vacuum has been filled by the social media in the hands of those who have made fear of immigration their main tool for achieving political power. As a result, 21% of Estonians are afraid of something, but they are not sure of, since they do not have any experience with the object of their fear.

How and why has the media failed to counter fear with information? It can be said the role of the media in a democracy consists in providing reliable information. This information in turn enables people to make decisions regarding their future. If these decisions are made on the basis of accurate and truthful information, they will reflect the freedom of those who make them. If the information is biased, the decisions of the people will not be free, but reflect the bias and intentions of those who manipulated information in the first place.

“Informative vacuum has been filled by the social media in the hands of those who have made fear of immigration their main tool for achieving political power.”

The images and the news we have seen in the last months are, of course, disturbing. From the massive arrival of desperate people to the central states of Europe, to the inability of many countries to cope with the overwhelming flow of refugees. But it is precisely because of this urgency they demand from us, that we need to be able to consider the problem calmly and with all the facts on the table.

Spy-like photo of a black man taken by a "concerned" citizen in Tallinn. It was republished by some anti-immigrant groups in Facebook. It is not too clear why they do this though (Photo - Facebook)

The most dangerous aspect of the current situation is the way a sizable part of the public seems to be receiving maimed information  to the point of being actual propaganda (in a very similar way the Russian government has used information regarding Ukraine since the Maidan, by the way), which deprives people from their ability to think for themselves. If you are bombed with information about the refugee crisis framed in an urgent way telling you your country is being invaded by monster-like human beings, you simply do not stop to think whether it makes sense. You become somehow scared inside, maybe even subconsciously at first, or maybe even develop hatred towards those who look like the supposed invaders.

“We need to be able to consider the problem calmly and with all the facts on the table.”

This is a basic process of dehumanisation. What started as being a mass of civilians fleeing from an already five-year-long civil war that has taken the lives of 250,000 people and made 11 million people leave their homes, has now somehow become a matter of protecting Europe from the legions of the poor and displaced for many citizens. The far-right emerging from the deepest caves of the European political underground has seized the moment and thrown its obsessions into the informative space: race, Islam, terrorism, rape, crime, think of the children, the destruction of our identity, a war against “European civilization”…

Moreover, in this confused mass of fear messages, the far-right has also succeeded in connecting with the grievances of those parts of society that feel displaced from the success of the European project and cannot possibly share its values. In the case of Estonia, the rural areas away from the Tallinn-Tartu axis, and even the working class districts in their outskirts.

“In the absence of clarity, the far right has managed to play on the mainstream narrative of how Estonia gained its independence to present the possible arrival of (poor) people of a different culture as an existential threat to the nation.”

In the absence of clarity, the far right has managed to play on the mainstream narrative of how Estonia gained its independence to present the possible arrival of (poor) people of a different culture as an existential threat to the nation. On 24 February (far-right groups have planned a “torchlight march” in Tallinn on the Independence Day), we will have a chance to see if their strength in the street matches their might on Facebook and their different websites. But they have already succeeded in instilling a fear of the other in the hearts of 21% of this country.


The opinions in this article are those of the author. The article was first published by Pablo Veyrat on his website. Read also: Pablo Veyrat: You, Estonians, are being lied to about raceSten Hankewitz: Grow up, Estonia and Adam Cullen: Estonians, speak up and take away their stick. Cover: an image from the Facebook page of “Blue Awakening” (“Sinine Äratus”) – the youth wing of far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE). Credit: Facebook.

20 thoughts on “Pablo Veyrat: The immigration panic and the Estonian media”

  1. I totally understand the fear. Look at Sweden with it’s generous open door policy of accepting immigrants whose culture is so entirely different from the Swedes. It doesn’t take a genius to see that integration is impossible. The Swedes have been quiet about it for decades. Estonia has fought great odds to keep its culture alive. But with a tiny population of 1.3 million, it wouldn’t take very long for the country’s cultural identity to be permanently over run.

    1. Estonia has agreed to take in 500 refugees over two years. One, but racist, can call this “to be permanently over run”. By comparison, Sweden took in over 160,000 refugees last year (Estonia took zero).

      1. Around 20% of estonians are living in poor conditions. 7% in absolute poverty, all together around 300 000 people who need help. How can you help others if you can’t help yourself? Plus you really can’t compare Estonia to Sweden. Things are not that black and white. And now please talk about how immigrants are going to save Estonia from poverty and extinction.

        1. Right. So let me refresh your memory – as it looks like many Estonians have a slight “memory loss” when it suits them. Who helped Estonian refugees and emigres when they needed help in 1944 and again in late 1980s/early 1990s? Who supported Estonia in its hour of need in early 1990s when there was no money to pay pensions or buy fuel in winter? That’s right, wealthier countries. Who supported Estonia with billions of euros when the country joined the EU in 2004? That’s right, the wealthier countries (and still do by the way). Has it occurred to you that Estonia is now part of the European Union and that also means showing solidarity with the rest of the EU – meaning admitting number of refugees? And by the way, milk and honey doesn’t flow anywhere. There are always rich and there are always poor. But Estonia is among the 40 wealthiest countries in the world and that doesn’t compare to people who have to escape war or terror and famine. So now please do me a favour and stop crying a river and start helping people who really need it. It’s time for Estonia to show that it is not a little white neo-Nazi country, but a modern and democratic member of Europe.

          1. I am just saying that for some reason some of those who ”need” help don’t really want to come here. (jesus, I am not crying a river! :S)
            I don’t think you can blame people for being scepitcal about immigrants.You can only blame them for not having empathy.

          2. The progressive liberal bias of yours really shows. In the 40’s people ran from the country because it was being over run over communists (good thing Franco removed them from Spain eh?) and people that ended up in Sweden, Canada, USA etc etc didn’t get all the luxuries that invaders get nowadays. They all needed to go to work and rebuild their lives by themselves.

            EU is supposed to be a trade union not a unit of tyrannic governing like it is today. But the fact that Germany and its lackey France are forcing everyone else to take invaders, when they should’ve been sent back in their boats, is unacceptable. As we have seen with Sweden from the 70’s until now a day the amount if immigrants they have taken has risen drastically and now as of 2011, Statistic Sweden reported that around 19.6% or 1,858,000 inhabitants of Sweden had
            foreign background, defined as born abroad or born in Sweden by two
            parents born abroad. That was 4 years ago. Swedish economy and its welfare state is dying, they simply cant hold this amount of freeloaders up anymore.

            In a nutshell: Why should a nation ever want to kill itself and its people like this.

      2. Yeah it’s strange. There are currently more than 500 Americans living in Estonia, so more than the number of refugees that may come. Those Americans are here often for economic reasons, and have many different religions. Yet, no one seems to fear them.

  2. Estonia has actually largest immigrant community in Europe, or about 20-30% people living here are Soviet gastarbeiters or the offspring of them. How they come and what kind of privileged status (new apartments, bigger salary, russian language was prefferred) they had, is painful memory in our collective consciousness. Plus our entire region of Ida-Virumaa is mostly russian speaking right now.
    Our nomenklatura doesn’t take this account and is very pro and uncritical of so-called european ideals and european alpha (fe)males, what also alienates them more and more from ordinary public.
    And about our social conditions: we have approx 40K children who can’t have their stomach full on daily basis, 200K peolple are in the so called risk getting very poor, our handicapped people rotten in their homes because our social system doesnt quarantee them liveable conditions etc, etc, etc. (We are nation of 1M estonians, and 300K imigrants.)
    All what tells also something about the knowledge base of the author of this article.

    1. The Estonian government is to blame for not focusing on the problems of hunger and poverty in Estonia. They get billions of euro from the EU every year, and choose to spend it on amusement parks, unprofitable national airlines, and startup companies that are so bad they can’t raise money from normal investors.

      The money is there to help the people of Estonia, but the government’s priorities are not focused on it.

      1. Yep. All this tells also what are oyr government priorities. Taking in immigrants pleases European Commission. Actually, with european money you can build rehabilitation centers for handicapped, but not to feed them. You can build four lane highroads, but not to feed children etc.
        Recently our government rejected proposition to raise schoolchildren food money from about 70 cents to 90 cents (what would cost about one million €) , and afterwards have shelled out millions of euros for preparation taking in immigrants.
        And our government still hasn’t ratified European social harta.

        1. Well there’s a difference between what Estonia must do as part of being an EU member, and what it can choose to do.

          Estonia needs to spend money on border controls and policing (part of Schengen requirements), and also for refugee handling. Those are part of agreements with the EU.

          But most of the money Estonia has to spend, they can choose how to spend it. They spend 40 million euros to make a new national airline, but ignore schoolchildren and the poor. Those are the wrong priorities.

          1. Yes, mostly I agree. For our government is more important to look like “big boys”, national social needs are not so flashy area. (F…ing vanity fair.)

      1. Nagu eelpoolses kommentaaris sai mainitud, peksid Pronksiöö ajal Tallinna kesklinna segamini just teise põlvkonna immigrandid. Loomulikult pole kellelgi midagi normaalsete inimeste vastu, kes siin elada tahavad ja kohalikke olusid austavad.

    2. I’m sorry Karol, but this is bullshit. You cannot call people who were born in Estonia and are Estonian residents, “immigrants”. It doesn’t matter whether their parents or grandparents came from the Soviet Union – they are now Estonians. Most young Russians speak Estonian and clearly consider Estonia their home. And it is strange to see someone bashing off the Soviet legacy and then using the word “nomenklatura”, a very Soviet-style word. Estonia is a democratic member of the European Union, not an isolated island, cut off from the rest of the world. Look at the map: Estonia is part of Europe, geographically. Culturally, it has been part of Western Europe since the 13th century. Hence it is natural that Estonia embraces the European ideals and culture. As for the poor – you should try to whinge to people who have to escape war and terror or people who don’t have clean water and any food to eat. Estonia is among the 40 wealthiest countries on the planet (out of 200+ countries) and there is no famine. It can and will be able to help a number of refugees – those who really need help.

      1. I just wanted to point out what is our problem with immigration and about your comments – you are just as politically correct as brainwashed.
        About second generation immigrants, if they are what you say they are, then it is OK, but sadly – in Pronksiöö (bronze night) mostly were these people who destroyed central Tallinn. So let be sceptical about their love of our country.
        If you don’t feel the beat in our society, then I’m just telling, that gap between so called Estonian elite and “ordinary man” is widened drastically in past years. Like with nomenklatura.
        I did not say, that so called refugees do not need help, but looking at the situation in Sweden, Germany etc, it is wise to abstain from mass immigration. At first we need to feed our own children, then we can help others.
        And most of these people who are coming into Europe, are mostly economical immigrants.
        And: I’m right and you are wrong 😛 (Please read, what wiser people are thinking.)

        1. When a far-right troll starts to say to others that they are “brain-washed”, then that usually indicates that it’s better to switch a “warning sign” on. At “Pronksiöö”, there were about 3,000, mostly young, people rioting – out of 300,000 who could be considered the second or third generation immigrants. Among those 3,000 were also some Estonians. Street protests are actually a normal part of civil society. That said, the violent rioting was obviously wrong and is rightly condemned – but to say, based on tiny percentage of the population with Russian ancestors, that “they” “destroyed” central Tallinn, is an ignorant bigotry (and by the way, they didn’t exactly “destroy” Tallinn – they smashed few windows). Secondly, adopting 500 refugees over two years is not “mass immigration”. Only a far-right, racist, scaremongering troll could call this a “mass immigration”. Estonian children are not starving, stop spreading lies. And again – Estonia is part of the European Union and has received billions of euros of support from the EU. When other members need help, then it’s time to show solidarity. If you don’t want to do that, then get out of the EU, simple.

          1. Correction- at ”Pronksiöö” he means those estonians who are really stupid or true to Putin’s Russia not Estonia.
            Clarification: for Estonia street protests that are happening because a soviet monument needs to be relocated are not part of a normal civil society.

    Don’t let people intimidate you by calling you racist . They come to take over countries and demand their laws. They say only whites can be racist , seems to me they want to destroy the white race. Almost all are young men. Our men in America fought to keep us free, so why aren’t they staying and fighting for theirs?? Yet Saudi Arabia won’t taken any, no other muslim countries will. Whites in the U.S. Are losing our freedom of speech. The muslims that our president is brining to us , demand our traditions in schools be stopped. Schools in German ,Sweden, ect Not only are teachers beaten by these peace loving invaders, so are the students.

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