Work-based immigration grows by 60 per cent
Presidential forum ponders whether Finland is ready to diversify
The number of foreign citizens seeking a residence permit for work grew last year by 60% from the previous year. Work was the reason given for one in three residence permit applications.
“Whereas the number of residence permit applicants has declined for three years, the entire profile of immigration is undergoing great change”, noted the Ombudsman for Minorities, Johanna Suurpää, speaking at a special Presidential Forum on Wednesday.
Suurpää and the other participants are pondering whether or not Finland is ready for widespread immigration, now that problems of present immigrants and minorities remain unsolved.
President Tarja Halonen organised a televised presidential discussion forum for the sixth time. This time the topic was a multicultural and pluralistic Finland. In addition to immigrants, there were representatives of Finland’s “traditional” minorities - the Roma and the Sámi.
“Generally the emphasis is on how much we need immigrants. We should ask how the rights of the immigrants are implemented”, Suurpää said.
She noted that those who are already in Finland must not be forgotten. A large proportion of the immigrants are unemployed, although the overall employment level has improved..
The Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party) said that she had asked Dr. Pentti Arajärvi (the husband of President Halonen) to investigate why the employment situation among immigrants is so difficult. A report is expected by the end of the year.
Thors would like to increase the responsibility of employers in integrating immigrants into Finland.
Employees should be given a chance to develop their linguistic skills during working hours, or during free time, supported by the employer.
Archbishop Jukka Paarma offered as an example of good diversity the ecumenical work of different churches.
He said that good results had been achieved in it, because there were no attempts at reaching any compromises. “As the different sides recognise their identity, dialogue takes place”, Paarma said.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Large number of immigrants poses challenge for schools in Helsinki suburbs (8.5.2008)
Immigrants say child welfare officials lack cultural understanding (11.4.2007)