Some wrongfully accuse those of speaking up for cultural diversity in Finland of “whining” and being “ungrateful.” Apart from exercising one’s democratic right of free speech, bigger steps have to be taken by minorities in this country to drive home their message of greater equality and fair treatment.
If we wait for change it will never happen in our lifetimes.
In my opinion, the situation of immigrants in Finland is tragic and shameful. On the one hand, you have people who want to eagerly take part in this society but cannot due to a number of imagined and real factors such as language, while Finnish authorities simultaneously spend a lot of funds and good will on integrating these persons to our society.
The integration program, although well-intentioned, lacks one very important component in order for it to be successful: Immigrants’ input. The program is the majority’s view on how newcomers should integrate into our society.
On many occasions I have mentioned that we do not need any magic trick to integrate immigrants and refugees. Those very values that makeup our society would be enough. However, the problem is that these legal benchmarks enshrined in the Constitution and Non-Discrimination Act do not apply to minorities who don’t speak Finnish or Swedish as natives.
Real integration does not only mean job opportunities but, most importantly, a willingness by society to accept these people. Today unemployment among immigrants is officially 2-3 higher than the national level and by looking at the silence and lack of leadership of Finnish politicians, the closed view of institutions such as the police and the constant attacks by hardline “Finland for Finns” proponents, it is clear what a significant part of the population thinks.
We are still at such a diaper stage in the immigrant debate that some of our politicians and policy-makers do not even grasp why immigration is important for this country but prefer instead to stick their heads in the sand and hide behind nationalism.
Change will not come from the majority because there is a definite lack of leadership in this area. If this is so, we must spearhead change and make our voices heard and take part more vociferously than ever in the ongoing one-sided debate on immigrants in Finland. We must lobby politicians and use all the opportunities and channels offered by democratic society to make our voices heard.
That time has come now.