Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Article Index

Finland

There was some societal tension between ethnic Finns and minority groups, and there were reports of racist or xenophobic incidents.

According to the media on August 4, the number of racist crimes recorded by police fell by approximately 17 percent in the beginning of the year compared with the same time in 2010. There were occasional reports of fighting between ethnic Finns and foreign-born youth of African and Middle Eastern descent as well as fighting between rival ethnic immigrant groups. The law does not have a specific category for "race-related crimes" or "hate crimes." However, racism as a motive or party to another motive to any other criminal act is a cause for aggravating the sentence.

On April 1, the Helsinki district court gave one person a 50-day suspended prison sentence for endangerment and fined three persons in connection with a mass brawl among youth of Kurdish, Somali, and Finnish extraction at Helsinki's Linnanmaki amusement park in 2010. The court ordered the defendants to pay 1,600 euros ($2,080) in compensation.

In April and May, Teuvo Hakkarainen, a member of parliament from the Finns Party, made a series of racially derogatory comments about blacks, Swedes, Somalis, Muslims, gay men, and lesbians. According to the press, police reported to the state prosecutor that there was no crime and if there was it was too small a matter to investigate. Hakkarainen later apologized.

Groups of Roma have lived in the country for centuries. According to the minority ombudsman, discrimination against the country's approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Roma extended to all areas of life, resulting in their effective exclusion from society. Roma are classified as a "traditional ethnic minority" in the ombudsman's report. The Romani minority was the most frequent target of racially motivated discrimination, followed by Russian speakers, Somalis, Turks, Iraqis, Sami, and Thais. Ethnic Finns were also occasionally victims of racially motivated crimes for associating with members of minority communities.

A new, significant influx of adult Romani beggars from Romania started in 2007 after Romania joined the EU, with an increase in Roma in Helsinki and other large cities. The number of beggars varied significantly over the year, ranging from approximately 200-300 during the summer months and only a few dozen during the winter.

A small number of illegal camps used by non-Finnish Roma were a controversial issue. The Helsinki rescue department stated that the sites suffered from safety deficiencies and were unfit for habitation. The city repeatedly offered temporary accommodation to the Roma, but many Roma either refused the initial offers or returned to the illegal camps after spending a short time in the shelters.

The Helsinki city council decided to break up non-Finnish Romani camps in Helsinki and enforced its decision with police. The minority ombudsman criticized the city council's decision as evidence of a hardening of attitudes towards foreigners and stated that, although the city has the right to decide where camps should be situated, breaking up existing camps did not solve the problem.

At the end of 2010 there were 54,500 Russian-speaking persons living in the country, principally in Helsinki and areas along the Russian border. They were by far the largest minority not speaking Finnish or Swedish, the country's two official languages. In April 2009, the latest date for which data was available, unemployment among immigrants from the former Soviet Union (excluding Estonia) was 31 percent, compared to 17.6 percent for all immigrants and 8.8 percent in the country overall. A 2010 report by the minority ombudsman identified the lack of Finnish-language ability, the lack of education or recognition of training, personal cultural differences, lack of employers' confidence in Russian speakers, discrimination, and the lack of local social networks as causes for this discrepancy. Russian-origin persons had the highest number of requests for assistance of any immigrant group and nearly double that of Somalis (the immigrant group with the second highest number of requests).

The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups and sought to address racial discrimination. All government ministries included antiracism provisions in their educational information, personnel policy, and training programs. The government also monitored the treatment of national, racial, and ethnic minorities by police, border guards, and teachers. The government's minority ombudsman monitored and assisted victims of discrimination. The ombudsman for minorities supervised compliance with the prohibition of ethnic discrimination.

In 2010, the latest data available, the ombudsman for minorities processed 848 client cases of discrimination. The Roma remained the largest ethnic group contacting the ombudsman for minorities. As in earlier years, the majority of Romani clients contacted the office about housing problems. The second-largest group to contact the ombudsman for minorities were Russian speakers.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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