Helsinki: Immigrant business district

Finland's first immigrant business district is springing up in the Hakaniemi-Kallio area of Helsinki. Although the area has been dotted with foreign-owned shops for over a decade, now competition is becoming fierce.

Dozens of immigrant-owned businesses are concentrated along and around Hämeentie, a main thoroughfare through the Hakaniemi and Kallio districts. These include ethnic food shops and restaurants, hair stylists and clothing shops.

Foreigners first began opening businesses in the area in the mid 1990s, attracted by low rents and the central location.

The area is close to the Hakaniemi's indoor and outdoor markets, and to the Finnish Immigration Service's new Customer Service office. There are also immigrant services in nearby Kaisaniemi, including the City of Helsinki's Caisa International Cultural Centre.

According to its director, Ahmed Akar, "Helsinki's first multi-cultural neighbourhood is being born here."

In the past couple of years, the number has shot up, and competition is becoming tougher. In some cases, similar shops have opened next to thriving ones with the result that both have gone out of business.

Immigrants are more likely to set up their own businesses than Finns. City officials say they want to support immigrant entrepreneurship -- but not necessarily concentrated on one street.

Source: YLE (English)

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