Social marginalisation increases immigrants’ risk of committing crimes
Lack of language skills major problem among foreign convicts
Poverty, lack of skills, and linguistic and cultural alienation increase the likelihood for an immigrant to be convicted of a crime.
According to a study by Juhani Iivari, head of research at the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES), the number of criminal convictions, the degree of unemployment, and low income status tend to accumulate on the same individual foreign-born residents.
Those with the highest number of convictions tend to be unemploymed, or have a low level of personal income.
During the period examined in the study, the late 1990s and the first half of this decade, the per capita rate of criminal convictions was higher among immigrants than among native Finns. Young immigrants had significantly more convictions than their Finnish contemporaries.
Young men accounted for a quarter of all criminal convictions among immigrants, whereas young people accounted for less than one in five convictions among native Finns.
Criminal records for immigrants appear to correlate with social problems and cultural factors.
On the basis of data collected through interviews, there are two basic types of immigrants who resort to crime. One group comprises men who have otherwise adapted to Finnish society, but who have suddenly lost their livelihood, and their sense of honour. The other group comprises those who were never able to adapt.
Lack of knowledge of Finnish was shown to be overwhelmingly the greatest problem. Only half of those interviewed had applied to a language course soon after arriving in Finland.
Iivari’s study also examined the impact of racism and discrimination. Those with criminal records had experienced more racist behaviour in Finland than immigrants in other studies.
One possible explanation for the difference is that immigrants who are convicted of crimes live more dangerously than other immigrants. For instance, they tend to move around in places with a greater propensity toward racism and at times of day where such outbreaks are more likely to occur.
The study focused records of convictions in 1997, 1999, and 2001, as well as prison statistics from 1997-2005. There were also interviews with 42 immigrants with criminal convictions.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish attitudes towards immigrants more positive (5.5.2006)