|Otsikko||Sfp's Initiative for Integration|
|Muut puolueen ohjelmat|
Tuesday, March 4, 2003
This paper will concentrate on the integration of immigrants, or in other words, the state of those already residing in Finland. Questions of integration are fundamental to Finland's future - socially, culturally, economically, and politically - so it is important to make the right choices. Immigrants offer a resource that must not be wasted through failing to both recognize the benefits of inclusion and embrace diversity. As Finland faces a labour shortage within the next few decades, it becomes even more essential that Finland is recognized as a country that values multiculturalism, and is committed to a policy of full, fair, and effective integration.
An important factor in the process of integration is the availability of information, in order to help guide immigrants. In Finland, the public sector organisations (such as KELA and Työvoimatoimisto) are responsible for providing information to immigrants, in order to facilitate the integration process. However, there are several weaknesses with the present system. They are the form(s) in which the information is supplied, the language and accuracy of information, and the process of distribution.
The present form in which information is offered to immigrants is usually leaflets, brochures, or pamphlets, which can be used as an effective medium. However, to ensure this form is most effective, the information must be available in the language required, and be clearly written and accurately translated. Additionally, it must be combined with the possibility to receive clarifications, or provision of additional information orally, from individuals in the public sector who are willing to show the patience and understanding necessary to present immigrants with access to complete and accurate information.
The public sector must also take an active role in providing information to immigrants, as well as cooperate more fully among themselves. Additionally, immigrants must be more closely tied to the processes of developing, writing, and distributing information. Such developments would help to close the distance between the information providers and information seekers, as well as taking full advantage of the potential among the immigrants to inform themselves.
The media, in its many forms, is also a medium that can be used as a source of information and education. However, media may also damage or hinder the process of integration through its presentation of the immigrants' image in negative manner, for instance by publishing non-Finnish names with regard to crime.
It is important for the media to avoid treating minorities as absent communities, by avoiding the inclusion and presentation of their views. By generalizing instead of individualizing the immigrant communities, the media can help to create a feeling of detachment, and a focus on differences more than similarities. This would only serve to widen the gap between the immigrant communities and the Finnish people.
Solutions to such issues can be aimed at several areas. There must be an effective program to raise awareness of media workers about their social responsibility to create an atmosphere appropriate for the encouragement of multiculturalism, and which values diversity by recognizing the importance of a sense of belonging and inclusion.
The media should actively seek the employment of those with foreign backgrounds to work in state-run media channels. Qualified immigrants must be increasingly involved in all levels of media, from the planning to the presentation, in an effort to present minorities and ethnic groups in an objective manner, and one in which social and cultural diversity is understood as a great benefit.
Laws against racism and discrimination in Finland meet European and international standards, and are quite progressive. All grounds are covered by anti-discrimination legislation, and the Constitution contains all fundamentals for rules on non-discrimination and equality. Yet questions of racial violence and discrimination are relatively recent social phenomena in Finland, and perhaps still underestimated.
Only in the last ten to twenty years have there been immigrants in substantial numbers. As a result, there is little information on racial violence and discrimination, and the Finnish statistics and monitoring systems for racism and discrimination are somewhat limited and underdeveloped. Only since 1997 have Finnish police classified racist crimes. And it must be remembered that the statistics derived from police reports do not take unreported crimes into account. There is also still a certain lack of knowledge on the part of the police in classifying racist crimes.
It is not only for police that classification of racist crimes is a difficult area. Court judgement of racist motive should be more carefully considered for a broader range of crimes, not only in cases involving, for example, agitation against an ethnic group or employment discrimination. Other crimes - such as assault, verbal threats, or property damage - may also have racist motives, which should be more heavily reflected upon by the Court.
Additionally, the high rate of case dismissals for racism and discrimination cases points to a weakness within the judicial system, and puts judicial practice at odds with Finnish legal theory. In order to properly verify and assess the procedure of racism and discrimination crimes within the Finnish judicial system, it is important that a monitoring system be established to study how cases proceed from the police to prosecuters to the courts.
More broadly, there should be more studies made on racial violence and discrimination in Finland, and a greater effort toward documenting these issues in order to clarify their frequency, type, reason etc. The importance of victim studies must be especially stressed, with special attention on immigrant and minority women - both in the sense of their treatment among the Finnish population, and also within their respective immigrant communities.
It is important to provide stronger and broader national support and legal advice networks for immigrants. During the course of integration, it is important for immigrants to be aware of their legal rights, and to know they have the legal support to request visa extensions, to travel in and out of Finland without hinderance, and more generally, to establish Finland as their permanent country of residence. Such a plan may be accompanied by cultural and tolerance training for police and border officials. The hiring of Finnish citizens with foreign backgrounds for work within police departments and as police officers would also be a welcome step.
The overall aim of current anti-racism awareness programs is to continue building an inclusive and intercultural society in Finland, where racism is effectively addressed and cultural diversity valued. The objective of the awareness program is the provision of equal rights, responsibility, and opportunities, regardless of ethnic or cultural background. Its aim is a society characterized by mutual respect and tolerance, in which everyone can take an active and responsible part, irrespective of background.
Current policies and ongoing projects should be well publicized, and both Finnish people and immigrants encouraged to participate in them. Responsibility for the various projects could also be consolidated under one organizational body when considering an additional step toward efficiency, and in order to ensure the results of the programs reach the public. The inclusion of immigrants at various levels of decision-making, and monitoring the state of immigrants and integration issues, would also be beneficial to effective administration of immigration affairs.
The use of education to eliminate such things as stereotyping, discrimination, and xenophobia can bring many benefits as well, such as increased interaction between immigrants and Finnish people, and a clearer understanding of what the other is. It provides a way to inform the public about racism and xenophobia. Intercultural class should be part of the curriculum for all school children, to provide them with a positive image and information about immigrants in living in Finland. Such classes could also be offered to all civil servants, for a better understanding of what racism and discimination are, and how they can be reduced.
In addition to education, annual conferences could be held to address current issues related to racism and the progress made in racial integration, and also to propose solutions and recommendations, with the possibility of additional workshops to promote racial equality, or to focus on particular problems. Alternatively, public displays can be used to promote multicultural society and to provide information to foreigners living in Finland, covering such topics as work, education, and culture. Permanent exhibition sites could even be established.
Although employment can offer benefits for the integration of immigrants, the labour market and the state of the economy must not shape immigration policy. There should be multiple integration paths available, not simply through the labour market, as well as support for spontaneous and alternative routes to integration.
Immigration policy cannot be based on the ideals of temporary labour migration or circular migration, for it exaggerates the temporary nature, and can lead to an immigration policy that exploits immigrants when the needs of the economy are not met. There must exist a proper understanding of the requirements for long-term and stable immigration and integration, as well as the nature of international labour migration, to allow immigrants to play a significant role in the economy.
It follows that it must be ensured that opportunities for participation in the labour market exist equally - regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender - or the legitimacy and universality of the welfare state and social order are at stake. Immigrants must be integrated into the labour market, not into the welfare system. A stable employment environment must be available to immigrants - in other words, a situation where immigrants become dependent on entrance jobs must be avoided. One possible solution is to promote entrepreneurial activity among immigrant communities, and to offer more assistance with finances and planning.
The crucial nature of immigrant education and vocational training for the process of integration cannot be stressed enough. This requires time, financing, resources, and a sense of responsibility. Responsibility for the success of an integration plan, and punishment if an individual integration plan is not completed or fails, cannot rest on the shoulders of immigrants alone. The funding of immigrant training and education should be seen from the perspective of investment into public education per capita.
Emphasis on cultural and social skills tends to present itself when a desire exists to close the labour market to a group of people. In an effort to minimize this, the line between competency demands and discrimination must be clarified. An additional related problem is that currently, foreign work experience does not hold enough weight.
The labour market status of immigrant women must also be raised to a level more in balance with other mainstream labour force participation rates. It must be ensured that the most effective routes to finding employment are available to all immigrants, and not simply to certain groups. To help reach these goals, the trade union movement and NGOs - and their potential to support ethnic diversity and tolerance - must be made use of, and the effort of companies that actively support tolerant practices and multiculturalism should be recognized.
Tulostettu POHTIVA-tietovarannosta: http://www.fsd.uta.fi/pohtiva/