Ombudsman for children: Finland has failed third culture children and youths

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Tuomas Kurttila, the ombudsman for children, tells us something we’ve known for a long time but have done little to nothing to resolve: Finland has failed at integrating third culture children. One does not have to be a expert on inclusion to understand that what Kurttila states is true.

But let’s take what he says a bit further. What does he mean by “failure?” Is he speaking of how we’ve failed as a society to tackle ethnic discrimination and racism?

There’s a lot of evidence that sheds light on what the ombudsman for children claims. For one, schools and society too often see children and youths that have one or two migrant parents as outsiders. One of the pet terms used for these children and youths is “person with foreign” or “migrant background.” The term in Finnish is ulkomaalaistaustainen and maahanmuuttotaustainen, respectively.

Why is it so important for a school or a society to label people with a name that’s not even a country but a circumstance that is defined by others that have power over you? Do these terms promote inclusion and social equality?

I don’t believe so. They do just the opposite because they remind the person that he or she is an outsider. What does it mean to be labeled as an outsider in today’s Finland, which is suspicious of migrants and minorities?

That’s why I wonder why people like Nasima Razmyar, Ali Jahangiri, Alizad Arman and others, who have lived most of their lives in Finland, are not only seen by some as “people with migrant background” but agree with the label.

As our culturally diverse society grows we should challenge those very terms that hinder and block our paths to inclusion and to be treated with respect by society. Having a foreign-sounding name, or having a different ethnic background, shouldn’t hinder your bright future in this country.

How one accepts and defines their Finnish identity is up to the person since identity is a personal matter. The important matter is that you define who you are, not others.

In Finland people are classified in the following manner: by country of birth, mother tongue and nationality. One can become a naturalized citizen but the person’s country of birth and mother tongue will always be present to otherize him or her, in some cases negatively.  This ethnic classification scheme was devised and enforced by white Finns.  In other words nobody cared to ask who you are.

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“There is a significant problem when speaking of the integration of children and youths [and] we haven’t yet acknowledged the seriousness of the problem,” said Kurttila. “Many times in public debate we think about how boys and girls succeed at school. At the same time we have a group of children that are in real bad shape.”

According to a National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) study, especially boys with foreign backgrounds aren’t doing well. One third of them have been victims of sexual violence, sometimes on a regular basis. The corresponding percentage for white Finnish boys and youths is 7%.

“The [THL] report shows that over 40% of first-generation of migrant boys have experienced physical threats in the last year,” Kurttila continued. “It makes you stop and think.”

Considering the cutbacks that the government plans, which will impact hard the migrant and minority community, matters aren’t going to get better in light of the THL study.

Moreover, we have the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party in government. One of its pet topics is how to demote migrants and minorities to second- and third-class citizens. They are a part of the “integration” problem of multicultural boys and youths in this country.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.