European Interest

Immigrants in Finland face discrimination

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Helsinki African Film Festival - Street Festival 10.5.2014

Laws and policies are inadequately protecting the people they are meant to serve, according to Michael O’Flaherty, the director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). He was commenting on the results of a survey of 25,500 first- and second-generation immigrants and members of ethnic minorities. They were interviewed for the second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey.

The news for Finland is particularly worrying. As reported by The Helsinki Times, discrimination against people of Sub-Saharan African descent is particularly common in Finland. Almost a half (45%) of the respondents reported that they have experienced discrimination over the past year and well over a half (60%) that they have experienced discrimination over the past five years.

“The results are a clear confirmation that there’s a lot of racism in Finland,” Kirsi Pimiä, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman of Finland, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on December 10.

“The researchers said they were shocked by the high ranking of Finland. They found it difficult to believe that there can be so much racism in a welfare state such as Finland.”

A total of 500 people of immigrant and ethnic minority group backgrounds were interviewed for the survey in the capital region, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

According to The Helsinki Times, the willingness and ability of respondents to report discrimination, however, appears to vary substantially between member states.

For example, nearly a third (30%) of respondents of Sub-Saharan African descent in Finland said they reported or filed a complaint about the latest incident of discrimination; in Austria, Italy and Portugal, fewer than a tenth of respondents of similar background said they did so.

In a press release, the FRA stressed that discrimination remains a union-wide problem in all areas of life – especially, in job-seeking – in spite of the introduction of anti-discrimination laws at the turn of the millennium. For many, it adds, discrimination is a recurring experience.

The only member state to yield a higher 12-month rate of discrimination against people of Sub-Saharan African descent was Luxembourg (50%). High 12-month rates of discrimination were reported also by North African respondents in the Netherlands (49%) and Roma respondents in Greece (48%) and Portugal (47%).

According to the FRA, this indicates that rights consciousness – including the knowledge and means to complain – varies not only between individual respondents and/or target groups. “It also points to varying degrees of effectiveness of existing laws and policies that aim to counteract discrimination and ensure equality for all in the member states,” concluded the FRA.

The average reporting rate across the union was 12%.

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