Shadow racism in the happiest country

by , under Yve Shepherd

It is quite true that when people come to a new country like Finland, they have a ”honeymoon” period – everything looks new and interesting. The first few months can feel like an extended holiday, and you experience the seasons, the holidays and the culture.

When it came time for me to look for work, and the first year, and then 20 months went by – it was so hard to explain to family and friends far away that there was just no way to find a job. One of my UK friends told me, ”Just take anything – even cleaning, and then other things will come”. They rarely did – whether I set my hopes high or low.

Fast forward another 18 years, and finding work is just as difficult, in fact, even harder for middle-aged people. Over the past winter, I tried looking into some new ideas through the ”Startup” groups, and then the TE office sent my details to the BusinessOulu office.

Source: BusinessOulu

On the 1st of March, a lady from BusinessOulu called, and introduced herself as a ‘business coach’ and she started to ask me about my recent work and searches. I explained some of the challenges I have had, and almost dropped the phone when I heard her say to me – ”Oh, I think you are too old to work”. A few seconds passed before I reminded her that her own President was older in his mid-70s, but she brushed it off and said ”oh that’s different.”

I guess in Finland, if you are a wealthy and famous man, you have more rights to a job than an immigrant woman without an income.

Another of my challenges has been the ‘Brexit Punishment’ British immigrants get – many officials like to make things difficult for us, regardless of our politics. Finland, via Migri (The Finnish Immigration Service), decreed all British permanent residents reapply for another Residency (plus 54 euros) and have interview, and then wait for a decision. This is currently taking – not weeks, but months! My own is now scheduled to take 14 months

When the business coach heard about this, she wanted to see the document from Migri which is my ‘security’ that I am still a current resident here. I emailed her a copy, and she called me back and announced that the document denied me any rights for job help, and again she told me I was too old. She didn’t like much what I had to say to her after that!

This was the point where I started my own offensive – I had nothing left to lose. I started by emailing the supervisors of the business coach and told them that I had become a victim of discrimination via their company. This, in turn, led to a meeting several weeks later, and although the supervisors apologized, their employee did not. I suggested this was a good time to start training their employees about discrimination and Human Rights, but they told me there ‘was no need for that – because they already knew individually what was right.’

A couple of weeks before the meeting, I made reports to Oulu Police (nothing yet), to the Discrimination Ombudsman (nothing yet) and to Victim Support (one phone call, and texts with lawyer phone numbers). 

In the big picture of what happens to immigrants and foreigners once they get to Finland, my own problem of discrimination and officials who commit crimes against Human Rights may not be as devastating – but how badly do things have to get that employees of the local government can be openly abusive in such a matter-of-fact way? We know that for every mouth and mind that openly offends us, there are another 100 who have the same thoughts. 

This recent verbal attack brought back all the other times my nationality has caused threats and violence – the Finnish stranger who  a year ago came and sat beside me at the bus stop and challenged me verbally before ”showing” me his 30cm hunting knife, or some years ago when I sat on a chair in a club and the Finn who had been there before me picked up the chair and threw me to the floor! 

It is certainly easier for immigrants to find work in the south of Finland, and there are more challenges up here in Oulu area, but we all share the insults and violations which Finland has yet to impliment as a crime. The nepotism, favoritism, and predilection of those who set hiring practices in Finland, reflect on their operatives- and the inclination to discriminate – both emotionally and physically. I believe it is a lot easier to find legal aid as a Finn too.

”The Non-Discrimination Act prohibits all discrimination on the basis of gender, age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.”  – oikeusministerio.fi