FACTFILE: The recession hardened attitudes towards foreigners
Size of foreign population has quadrupled since 1990
Racist crimes refers to crimes whose victims are chosen on the basis of their ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, or national background.
Nearly 60% of the racist crimes that took place in Finland between 2000 and 2003 were recorded in the province of Southern Finland, where the majority of the foreign population is also to be found. More than 45% of all racist crimes in the country took place in the Greater Helsinki area.
Just under 30% of the racist crimes were committed by a person or persons unknown to the victim, and in roughly one in five cases the victim and suspect were parties to a transaction of some kind. In one in four cases the victim knew the alleged perpetrator personally - the suspect was an acquaintance, a colleague, or a neighbour. In the cases where a neighbour was involved, around 60% concerned illegal threats or intimidation.
When the incidence of racist crime is measured against the size of the resident foreign population, the greatest number of crimes occurred in Eastern Finland, Oulu Province, and in Lapland.
At the end of 2004, a total of 108,346 citizens of other countries were living in Finland, or slightly less than 2% of the overall population. The number of persons living in Finland and speaking a foreign language as their mother-tongue totalled 133,183. The largest foreigner groups are Russians (24,626), Estonians (13,978), Swedes (8,209), Somalis (4,689), people from the former Yugoslavia (4,090), and Iraqi citizens (3,392).
By way of reference, the total number of foreigners living in Finland in 1990 was slightly over 26,000, and Swedes accounted for around 6,000 of them. Further back, in 1980, the total was just 12,843, with roughly one in four being Swedes, and with German (1,493) and British (980) citizens taking the other podium places. People from the former Soviet Union (including Estonia) numbered 858 in 1980.
Even now, with foreigners making up barely 2% of the Finnish population, by no stretch of the imagination could Finland be described as "a multicultural society". Nevertheless, major changes have taken place from the extreme homogeneity of three decades ago: numbers have risen tenfold since 1980, and have quadrupled since the early 1990s. We should also add to this the number of foreigners acquiring Finnish citizenship by naturalisation. This has increased sharply since 1997, going up from an average figure of around 1,000/year to 4,450 in 2003 and a high in 2004 of 6,900 (see table linked below). Just under 36,500 individuals have taken Finnish citizenship between 1990 and 2004, with 20,000 of these occurring in the past four or five years.
According to a study on ethnic attitudes, negative Finnish views towards foreigners grew in strength during the recession years of the early 1990s. Foreigners were seen as one cause for unemployment and the rise in social spending.
Since the recession, attitudes have become more positive, but the situation has not got back to the pre-recession level.
A total of 596 persons were suspected of racist crimes in 2004. This figure includes only those persons whose personal details were known, and not suspects defined by description only. Of these 596 individuals, 97% were Finnish citizens, and 94% were born in Finland.
The sizeable majority of the suspects were men. The number given is greater than the 558 recorded racist crimes, because in some cases more than one suspect was involved. At the same time, many of the individuals listed were suspected of more than one offence, whereupon they are listed more than once. The actual number of separate suspects was 392.
Helsingin Sanomat / Adapted for IntEd from an article first published in print 26.8.2005
More on this subject:
Assault is the most common racist crime
Statistics Finland: Foreigners in Finland
Statistics Finland: Naturalised Finns (in Finnish, measured in thousands/year)