Finland: Immigrant Integration Is a Shared Responsibility

Integration is indeed a shared responsibility. A government cannot integrate people who do not want to integrate, and it cannot integrate people if the host population isn't interested in them integrating. This article deals with the latter, but it doesn't really explain why immigration is needed or wanted in Finland.


Over the past few decades, Finland has become a more diverse society. This is now leading to a shift in focus from refugee welfare, to the integration of immigrants into Finnish society.

Immigrants come in all shapes and sizes, in many colours and for many different reasons.

Depending on how one defines an immigrant, be it by origin or language, estimates are that there are up to 155,000 immigrants in Finland today.

The number of non-Finnish citizens living in the country has shot up by a factor of five since the start of the 1990s. Most immigrants living in Finland have made the country their permanent home.

Calling Finland Home

Making a new home, integrating into a new culture, is not easy for immigrants, nor for society.

"You cannot make the best choices for yourself or for your children or for your family if you don't know how the things are functioning here, what is the system, what is the Finnish society or the Finnish school system like," says Anne Alitolppa-Niitamo, who is an anthropologist, psychologist and manager in multicultural issues at the Family Federation.

Today there is a major shift underway from a focus on refugee welfare to the real integration of immigrants into society. To a growing extent, practical integration work is done by various national and international networks.

Integration Efforts in the Comminity

Rather than being confined to certain authorities, integration is seen in terms of a shared responsibility.

"The problem is that everybody thinks there is one certain authority that does what is called integration work. That there is one certain office somewhere, where this work is done. But that is not the case. It's everybody's responsibility," adds Alitolppa-Niitamo.

A shared responsibility in welcoming newcomers manifests itself in small, everyday gestures:

"When you meet somebody in the workplace, or in the neighbourhood, you see that this is, well this is a person who has moved from another country, you should go say, hey, I see you are a newcomer here -- how are you doing? Is there something I could help you with? Do you have any questions and so forth."

Finland cannot go back to the past. Building the future calls for opening doors.

Source: YLE (English)

No comments: