THL survey in Finland says first-generation migrants more likely to experience bullying, physical and sexual harassment

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A new survey shows that first-generation immigrants are more likely to experience bullying, physical threats and sexual harassment than white Finns, according to YLE in English, which cites the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The survey revealed some 32% of “immigrant” children found it difficult to access school welfare officers.

Should the findings of the study surprise us taking into account the negative atmosphere in this country against migrants, minorities and cultural diversity? Moreover, why is so little known about  the health and well-being of “immigrant” children and young people?

THL admitted in the statement that there has been up to know very little information about this groups of minors.

THL researcher, Anni Matikka, said that immigrants are a heterogenous group and that not all of them need help.

“However, there are young immigrants who are facing several challenges in their health and well-being, and therefore these individuals need special support,” she added.

Matikka said that families of children with “immigrant” backgrounds should have access to good information about support and student welfare services. “At the same time they could strive to increase trust in the providers of these services among immigrant background youth,” she said.


Näyttökuva 2014-9-17 kello 18.03.28
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While sexual harassment (unwanted intimate touching, pressure or coercion to have sex or an offer to buy sex) was common at school with one in three girls experiencing such violence or harassment and one in four in upper secondary schools, the survey showed that sexual harassment was more common among first-generation “immigrant” boys (32% experienced sexual violence) than among “immigrant” girls (28%).

It showed as well that 42% of first-generation immigrant boys had experienced physical violence in the last year compared with 33% second-generation “immigrant” boys.

While the THL survey was done in 2014, in the 1990s matters were either worse or the same.

It is a positive matter and always a step in the right direction that there is concern about the welfare of third-culture Finns at schools. Migrant Tales has written a lot about the matter.

A Somali Finn wrote on our blog that his brief honeymoon with Finland ended abruptly in the 1990s when he started elementary school. He was the school’s first and only black student. “That’s when the bullying started; I was even attacked physically by my classmates,” he said. “Something bad happened to me almost every day at school.”

Read what Ida, Abdulah and Joseph have to say about being Other in Finland here.

I remember when one of my children was harassed and insulted at a Helsinki school in the late-1980s because of ethnic background. The matter that surprised me the most was how little importance the teacher gave to the incident.

The THL survey defines first-generation immigrants as children who weren’t born in Finland and have non-Finnish parents; second generation migrants were born in Finland to non-Finnish parents. Native-born Finns are those whose parents were born in Finland.

Taking into account the definition by THL of first- or second-generation immigrants and native-born Finns, the mere definition highlights part of the problem. Are these children, irrespective if their parents were born elsewhere, “immigrants” or “Finns” with multicultural or third-culture backgrounds?

The term immigrant isn’t a country but an abstract concept. Does it promote inclusion or exclusion when used?

The label used at some Finnish school such as “children with immigrant backgrounds” promotes in my opinion “us” and “them.” Does the label, which is apparently used quite commonly at Finnish schools, promote our values of social equality or does it relegate the person to second- or third-class status?

These types of labels, which are placed by the majority culture on the minority, may shed some light on why teachers and school-welfare workers are so hard to get in touch with by “immigrant” children.

Over 180,000 children and young people in Finland took part in the survey.