Why are integration programs in Finland doomed to failure?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Here’s the billion-euro question: Why are integration programs in Finland usually doomed to failure? What can Finland and Europe learn from countries like Canada that have a more successful approach to integration? 

One matter is for certain: A big part of the problem resides in between our collective ears. Do we see migrants as a problem or an asset to our society? Certainly factors like human and financial resources play important roles in determining how successful our integration programs are.

You don’t have to search too far to understand the challenges we face in making people feel that Finland is their home and that they’ll be treated with respect and as equal members of society. Even if the answer to the problem sits under our noses the big question is if we want to do anything about it.

Like in any other country, social exclusion in Finland is not only costly to tax payers but for migrants, who are obliged to go through a slow rites of passage, or integration ritual, which doesn’t even assure them of a job after all of their efforts.

Brandy Yanchyk, a Canadian documentary film producer, recently showed her most recent documentary, Finding Edge Road, in Finland.

Näyttökuva 2015-11-6 kello 13.06.22
See Find Edge Road demo here.

The documentary on a small far-flung town called Lieksa is an extreme example of what you shouldn’t do when integrating migrants. Few migrants in Lieksa integrate while the majority remain on the fringes, on Edge Road, of society.

“In Canada integration means that one can keep his culture and be proud of his cultural background,” she said. “Diversity is not seen as something negative but something that one can be proud of while being Canadian at the same time.”

If we look at Yanchyk’s example of how integration is supposed to work in Canada and compare it with Finland, difference we spot at first glance is enormous.

The bottom line why integration is doomed to failure in Finland is because we still has second doubts about cultural and ethnic diversity, which is the main issue.

How long will it take for Finnish society to understand that diversity and migrants are a positive force and not something that should be treated with suspicion and tweezers?

Changes won’t happen rapidly on this front and there is a lot of opposition among some Finns to cultural and ethnic diversity. The rise of an anti-immigration and anti-cultural diversity party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* is one unfortunate example.

It baffles me how some Finns can vote for a party like the PS that wants to demote migrants and minorities to second- and third-class citizens.

Change will happen in Finland but it will take generations.

The face of racism will get uglier and more vicious in this country before we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language 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.