Does Finland’s integration plan turn migrants into active or submissive members of society?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

We hear near-constantly from the police in cities like Varissuo and journalists warning us about the dangers of “multiculturalism”  in Sweden and how it may spread and wreak havoc in Finland. This type of reporting is unfortunate because it not only reinforces stereotypes about migrants but their exclusion from society. 

As long as Finland’s official immigration policy, the overriding message of politicians and journalists is to portray migration and cultural diversity as a threat, these types of conclusions and stories we’ll continue to spoon feed our prejudices and leave unchecked our stereotypes.

Portraying migrants and visible minorities as a threat only helps to feed the present hostile environment towards such groups. 

Finland generally sees – especially non-white, non-EU Muslim – migration as a threat. Our integration program and countless Finnish-language courses for such migrants are designed to turn most of them into second-class members of society. It’s not very empowering to know that your job prospects are bleak and that your salary is too low to pay for your cost of living in Helsinki. 

The Saami offer migrants and minorities today a good example of how they suffered centuries of cultural encroachment and how their language and culture were supposed to disappear from the map. 

Adapting to Finland does not mean giving up your culture but to be proud of it. It does not mean dying your hair white or becoming a Bounty candy bar, which is dark from the outside, white from the inside. 

This video shows (in Finnish) what some Saami youths think about being a minority in Finland. 

Watching an interview with Saami youths in the video clip above, there are two statements that caught my attention.

“I don’t consider myself to be a Finn and I know there are Saami who see themselves as Finns,” said the first woman on the left. “But I’m [not a Finn but] a Saami and Finnish citizen.” 

Petra Laiti added: “Saami culture is not defined by Finnish culture and that Finnishness is an umbrella term formed by different [cultural] groups that form part of this blanket definition.”

In an interview with regional police officer Vesa Jauhiainen, who works with migrants and their children in Varissuo, correctly stated that marginalization of youths and ineffective integration are factors that cause problems. 

But here is the million-euro question: What expectations do white Finns have of migrants and minorities concerning their adaption or “integration?” 

While this may seem as an obvious question to some, it reveals many of the problems that migrants face in Finland. Is the object of our integration program to convert migrants into members of society or prepare them to become equal members of society? Does our integration program do anything to prepare and adapt the Finns to a society that is culturally and ethnically diversity? 

Considering the history of minorities like the Sami, Roma as well as other groups in Finland,  the answer to the above questions is clear: Most migrants are not supposed to become equal members of society, especially groups like non-EU Muslims, unless they have been here for many generations. 

We need an earnest discussion in Finland on how to empower our ever-growing culturally diverse communities and, if they wish, to become active members of society.  

Integrating and encouraging migrants and minorities to be submissive members of society is a recipe for failure and for future social problems, which are evident today.