Analysis: What does this year’s hate crime report reveal about Finland and its police service?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The Police University College published this week its latest suspected hate crime statistics for 2019. It showed that while hate crimes, on the whole, had retreated a tad compared with 2018, 87.1% of all suspected cases were due to a person’s ethnic or religious background.

Other suspected hate crimes were due to sexual orientation (72 cases/5.7%), disability (44/4.9%), and gender identity (21/2.3%).

While we understand that these cases, like that of sexual assaults, are only the tip of the iceberg, the important question we should ask is how to challenge hate crime more effectively.

This may be easier said than done, considering that Finland is still living in denial when it comes to hate crime, hate speech, and racism.

Nobody has yet given a fair and honest answer to how Finland, with one of the best education systems in the world and whose laws are supposed to promote social equality but not equity, has seen the growth of an openly racist and radical right party?

The Perussuomalaiset (PS)* is not only a racist party but one that brings out the worst side in the Finns when it comes to bigotry. It should not come to any surprise that the lion’s share of the most infamous Islamophobes in Finland are from the PS.

If Finland’s second-biggest party in parliament is openly Islamophobic and turns a blind eye to far-right ideology among its ranks, should we be surprised that so little is being done politically to challenge a social ill like racism?

The biggest problem in the police service’s relationship with racism and different minority communities in Finland is the low priority that this social ill has. Sometimes, one gets the impression that the police fear more the reaction of a minority community to what happened to a victim of its group than readily condemning hate crime.

Another matter that is a blow to police trust in resolving hate crime cases rapidly. Many who have reported racist harassment and threats to the police understand that your case may take months to resolve. In such cases, the police may even overlook the bias motivators as happened in Jämsä with an asylum seeker.

Another case that received wide coverage in June was an eighteen-year-old Muslim, who was chased and physically attacked by locals in Teuva, a town in western Finland.

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Even if the incident happened in June, the police have not charged any of the suspects.

One of the question marks of the Police University College hate crime report is the low number of women compare with men victims. According to the report, 63% of the cases involved men and 37% women.

In countries like France, Muslim women are the most vulnerable, accounting for 81.5% of Islamophobic attacks. The corresponding figure for the Netherlands is over 90%, according to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

Seventy-nine percent of Muslims do not report their most recent experience of discrimination to any competent organization, according to ENAR.

Apart from revealing insensitivity to victims of hate crimes, it shows that Finland’s police service has a chronic diversity issue. Mostly white police officers, who have most likely never faced racism in Finland, never mind victims of hate crime, are reporting hate crime.

Like the rest of white Finnish society, the police must understand that migrants, minorities, and especially people of color are equal members of society that may be equal on paper but lack equity.

We need concrete action. If this won’t happen, people will be numbers and nameless in a report.