Comment: Minister of housing and communication, Krista Kiuru, a Social Democrat, presses lightly on a raw nerve facing the immigrant community of Finland, according to a story on MTV3. Taking into account high unemployment among immigrants and public housing policy in Finland, there is very little that Kiuru can do to avoid concentrations of immigrants living in neighborhoods.
Kiuru said that in the story below that some public officials are in favor of immigrant concentrations in neighborhoods because it is an easy way of dealing with the problem. “It’s not going to happen during my term in office,” she said. “In my opinion, it isn’t a smart thing to do primarily for the reason that many of them (residents of such neighborhoods) are living off income support or are single parents. I don’t want that type of concentration (of people) in a city. No thank you.”
While Kiuru’s intentions may be noble and are a reflection of our social welfare state and housing policy, is poverty becoming more visible in Finland due to immigrants? Was it ok in the past to have low-income Finns living in certain neighborhoods of a city since, being white Finns, poverty wasn’t that visible . Visible immigrants have given poverty a more visible and disturbing face.
Do I think Kiuru will succeed at dismantling the concentrations of immigrants or low-income Finns in certain neighborhoods? No, that is a pipe dream. The only effective way would be to improve employment, training opportunities for immigrants and unemployed Finns and their integration into society.
Do you agree?
Interesting fact: Varissuo, located near Turku, has the highest concentration (35% of the total population of 8,881) of immigrants in Finland. Seventy-three percent of the students have an immigrant background.
Asunto- ja viestintäministeri Krista Kiuru haluaa pysäyttää sosiaalisen asumisen keskittymisen omille alueilleen. Kiurun mielestä myös päättäjien keskuudessa esiintyy ajattelua, jonka mukaan esimerkiksi maahanmuuttajille olisi syytä varata omia asuinalueitaan.
Even though this seems like an issue you cannot do much about, at least not on short-term, it is very important.
One of the biggest risks I see in poor immigrant integration is fragmentation of the society on ethno-cultural lines. One of the first steps toward this direction can be the increased concentration of certain immigrant groups into certain areas of a city. Maybe I’m wrong but somehow I feel that a China-town or Little Italy model would not work in Finland.
On the other hand, you cannot tell people where they should live, they have to be able to make the decision themselves. But given that many immigrants, especially the ones with refugee background, live in apartments owned by the municipalities, there is a possibility to affect things.
– “Was it ok in the past to have low-income Finns living in certain neighborhoods of a city since, being white Finns, poverty wasn’t that visible?”
Good point. I guess the problem is not actually just the concentration of immigrants into certain neighborhoods but of all kinds of people with a low socio-economic status. And this I do think is a problem in any case. Now it has become more visible with the immigrants.
What every city can do is to build their rental apartments all around the city, to different neighborhoods and not only to some. That is an easy way to get socio-economically mixed areas and avoid concentration. There will always be poor and unemployed people but it does not say anywhere that they have to live in the same areas.
When it comes to immigrants, I think it is obvious that the integration to the new society takes longer if you are mostly surrounded by other recent immigrants. The same with children and the schools – if 73 % of the pupils in Varissuo have an immigrant background then for sure adapting to the new language and culture becomes more difficult.