By Enrique Tessieri
Migrant Tales wrote back in May about how policemen in Pieksämäki and Mikkeli recommended against reporting racist harassment incidents in public to the authorities. The Ombudsman for Minorities was in the dark as well about what to do but called the next day and said that harassment cases should be reported to the police.
An African was shoved and hit on the back by a young Finnish man on a bus in Jyväskylä. Nobody reacted, not even the drive. The African walked away from the incident evidently shaken by what happened.
What should one do if somebody begins to harass you in public because of your ethnic background, shoves and hits you?
A policeman from Mikkeli, who came to speak to a group of students from different countries, said that racist harassment in public should not be reported to the authorities.
Another policeman from Pieksämäki gave the same advice to Migrant Tales: ”I have been on the force for 35 years and my advice is to walk away. It’s not worth (reporting the crime) because we’ll never catch the person. My advice? Just walk away.”
Even though I agree that the safety of the victim is the first priority, it is a different matter whether not the incident should be reported to the police. If you do, at least it will show in police statistics revealing a wider problem that isn’t addressed enough by the authorities and community.
The response by the policemen is a disappointment and shows that they aren’t apparently too concerned by this type of harassment. The silence of the authorities on this front could shed light on a wider problem concerning police relations and immigrants.
Reporting harassment cases to the police can turn into a challenge for the victim. If you do it by phone, get ready to be put on hold indefinitely in some cases. Add to this the lack of communication skills, cultural differences and mistrust of the police, and we see how difficult it may be for an immigrant to report such cases.
Visiting the police station may be a faster and more effective way of reporting such a crime.
One problem with reporting harassment and hate crimes in Finland is the lack of clear standard procedures that are readily understood by all immigrants. In the harassment cases it isn’t clear and their are conflicting opinions on what one should do.
Contrary to the policemen’s advice from Pieksämäki and Mikkeli, however, the Ombudsman for Minorities recommended: ”It (harassment) should be reported to the police because they may catch the suspect one day (because the person may be caught and identified).”
What should a person do if the policeman says not to bother but the Ombudsman’s office says you should?
Here lies the problem: What to do and whom to believe.