Migrant Tales spoke recently to the office of the Ombudsman for Minorities about two cases by Finland’s mobile phone operators and insurance companies. We asked as well if using the term students with immigrant backgrounds, or maahanmuuttajataustainen, at elementary and middle schools was discriminatory.
The term maahanmuuttajataustainen appears to be so common in some Mikkeli schools that they refer to such students with the acronym “MMT.”
If you feel that you are discriminated because of your ethnic and/or national background, the Ombudsman for Minorities is a good place to inquire about such matters from Monday to Friday from 10-noon at 071 878 8666.
In an email dated May 13 to Ombudsperson for Minorties Eva Biaudet and Rainer Hiltunen, ombudsman head of office, I pointed out the three above-mentioned cases.
The Ombudsman for Minorities gave the following responses in a telephone interview:
Mobile phone operators can in principle ask for a deposit if the person doesn’t have a credit history in Finland. This rule should not only apply to immigrants but to everyone who lives in Finland irrespective of the person’s nationality.
One of the solutions that the Ombudsman for Minorities gave was for the potential customer to ask the phone operator if it was possible to provide a credit history from the person’s last country of residence.
On the second mater concerning residence and language requirements by insurance companies, the Ombudsman for Minorities said that such cases are still ongoing. The cases and sources supplied by Migrant Tales would be given to the department in charge of negotiating these matters with with insurance companies.
The final matter, whether it was discriminatory for elementary and middle schools to openly call third-culture children ”students with immigrant backdgrounds” was discriminatory, the Ombudsman for Minorities asked what better word could be used in place of maahanmuuttajataustainen.
At some learning institutions the term ”immigrant” or ”person with immigrant background” has been dropped and replaced by “mulitucltural student.” Even if this isn’t the best term, it’s much better than immigrant or person with immigrant background.
It’s clear that the terms used to label immigrants, their children and visible minorities can fuel discrimination and promote inequality. By labelling a person who was born in this country or who has lived most of his or her life in Finland a person with immigrant background is making the following affirmation: Your not equal to me because I’m a native and you’re a foreigner.