There was some societal tension between ethnic Finns and minority groups, and there were reports of racist or xenophobic incidents.
In 2011 police filed 918 reports of suspected hate crime cases, a 7-percent increase from the previous year, and prosecuted 29. The majority of the cases (86 percent) involved racist incidents; the victim’s religious background motivated 6.6 percent of the remaining cases, sexual orientation 4.6 percent, and disability 2.6 percent. Somalis experienced the highest frequency of racially motivated crimes among foreign citizens resident in the country. The law does not have a specific category for “race-related crimes” or “hate crimes,” but the presence of racism as a motive or partial motive to any other criminal act is a cause for aggravating the sentence.
On July 9, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released a report that expressed concern immigrants still suffered discrimination in various fields including employment and that the country’s Aliens’ Act contained discriminatory provisions. The ECRI noted that the National Discrimination Tribunal neither awarded compensation to victims of discrimination nor dealt with cases of discrimination in employment or immigration matters. The report also noted that a shortage of human and financial resources undercut the effectiveness of the Ombudsman of Minorities and the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations.
In 2012, the most recent year for which data was available, the minority ombudsman processed 641 cases of discrimination. Roma filed 60 cases, 40 of which related to housing and residence problems.
According to the minority ombudsman, discrimination against the country’s approximately 10,000-12,000 Roma extended to all areas of life, resulting in their effective exclusion from society. The Romani minority was the most frequent target of racially motivated discrimination, followed by Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami. Ethnic Finns were also occasionally victims of racially motivated crimes for associating with members of minority communities.
A seasonal influx of adult Romani beggars from Romania to Helsinki and other large cities continued. The number of beggars varied significantly during the year, ranging from approximately 200-300 during the summer months to only a few dozen during the winter. Helsinki city officials believed that word had spread through the itinerant Romani community about the challenging winter conditions in the country. The ECRI report placed Romani unemployment at 40 percent.
Social workers continued an information campaign to educate Roma arriving in the country on local child welfare laws. Helsinki city officials and the Deaconess Institute distributed leaflets in English and Romanian highlighting Finnish laws, including those forbidding children from sleeping in cars or on the street. During the summer a Romanian police officer assisted Finnish police in dealing with problems involving the Romanian Romani community.
According to a study by the Ministry of Economy and Employment, ethnic minorities faced discrimination at the recruitment stage in the labor market. Other grounds, such as age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and opinion, did not lead to labor discrimination as frequently as ethnicity, nationality, and language. Authorities estimated that the frequency of ethnic discrimination was more than three times higher than gender discrimination. A study in May 2012 cited by the ECRI report found that job seekers with Russian names had to send twice as many applications as those with Finnish names in order to receive an invitation for a job interview. Earlier studies indicated that Somalis, Sub-Saharan Africans, and Arabs perceived the most discrimination both in recruitment and at the work place. According to research reported by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner in September, 41 percent of young Somalis in the country did not go to school or work, compared with approximately 5 percent of young persons in the majority population. The July ECRI report estimated Somali unemployment at 50 percent. Statistics Finland estimated the Somali population in the country to be 7,468 in 2012.
At the end of 2012, an estimated 62,550 Russian-speakers lived in the country, principally in Helsinki and areas along the Russian border, the largest minority not speaking Finnish or Swedish, the country’s two official languages. The Finnish Union of Russian-Speaking Associations stated that Russian-speakers in the country risked being in “an information vacuum” due to the lack of materials in their language.
In May several prominent Swedish-speaking Finns reported to police that they had received threatening anonymous e-mails. Police believed the threats to be the work of a single person or small group of individuals. On August 23, Minorities Ombudsman Eva Biaudet reported in the press that individuals using language tying her to the Swedish-speaking political party had publicly confronted her twice within a week. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and public opinion in general strongly condemned the threats.
The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups and sought to address racial discrimination. All government ministries included antiracism provisions in their educational information, personnel policy, and training programs. The government monitored the treatment of national, racial, and ethnic minorities by police, border guards, and teachers. The government’s minority ombudsman monitored and assisted victims of discrimination. The ombudsman for minorities supervised compliance with the prohibition of ethnic discrimination.
The July ECRI report cited as improvements the strengthening of the criminal law punishing offenses motivated by “race,” color, ethnic or national origin, religion and beliefs; the establishment of a Discrimination Monitoring Group to gather information on the efforts to combat discrimination; the publication of the national policy on Roma; and the reduction in the residence period required for acquiring citizenship.