The agreement reached between the coalition parties in the Finnish government should be welcomed as a step in the right direction not only as the right response after the political scandal caused by the racist comments that resurfaced the internet from some members of the government coalition. The comments and “jokes” were met with justified widespread criticism from the public and even some negative international coverage. It is indeed a step in the right direction that all parties in government regardless of their position in the political spectrum agreed on specific policies to fight racism on its different forms, especially since the topic of racism had not initially received enough attention in the government program.
However, the fact that the agreement could be seen as a positive shift from an indifferent or even antagonizing tone does not invalidate the need to read this development with a healthy dose of skepticism. Namely, this agreement hyper fixates on the topic of discrimination in the workplace. As a dual Colombian, Finnish citizen I have met migrants and their families from diverse backgrounds and most migrants are very aware of the importance of integration through the learning of Finnish and having access to the job market. Migrants face on a regular basis the vicious cycle of feeling not being fully integrated because of their lack of the right education certificates and/or not having a satisfying proficiency level of Finnish.
most migrants are very aware of the importance of integration through the learning of Finnish and having access to the job market. Migrants face on a regular basis the vicious cycle of feeling not being fully integrated because of their lack of the right education certificates and/or not having a satisfying proficiency level of Finnish."
Individual responsibility is important, but this does not exclude the fact that integration happens for every person and group of people in their own path. Mental health, family life issues and the cultural shock of starting a new life in a different culture are some factors that affect the learning path for migrants and families. For some people, the integration path will take more time than for others. This agreement fails to emphasize that the State has a supporting role providing health and educational services regardless of the stage in the integration process. Furthermore, access to the labor market and fighting against discrimination at the workplace though an important aspect of the struggle against discrimination reduces a multifaceted issue to an economic (more palatable?) one.
For some people, the integration path will take more time than for others. This agreement fails to emphasize that the State has a supporting role providing health and educational services regardless of the stage in the integration process. "
The agreement in one hand mentions the importance of participation in early childhood for children with immigration background “as it supports the whole family integration and language learning” while at the same time alludes to the importance of participation from youth with immigration background during the implementation of these policies. I commend the government for this initiative. At the same time, this process should be conducted in a constructive form with families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Integration should not be used as a soft form of assimilation. Sadly, cultural differences are still perceived as a source of problems rather than a sign of strength. Considering the needs of children from intercultural families in their learning process while celebrating and promoting cultural diversity are not conflicting goals. Furthermore, being fully proficient in a language or being labelled as an “economically viable migrant” could be used to promote divisions between families of foreign origin based on arbitrary reasons. On the contrary, in my experience, which I shared with many immigrants in a similar situation, the process of integration, sense of belonging and contribution to the social fabric of our communities is not limited by a language or monetary parameter.
I came to Finland 10 years ago, and since then I had the opportunity to study international human rights, meet new friends and colleagues, and adopt two amazing cats who are part of my intercultural family. During this time, I also had the chance to study Swedish as the second official language at the university. This helped me in my path to integration and has offered me opportunities to learn Finnish. It has also allowed me to have a platform as a researcher to write about human rights issues that matter to me without fear. This peace of mind is something I appreciate in my everyday life because we cannot take it for granted, not even in other EU countries.
That is the reason, though we still have a long way to go, I am positive we can work in this direction. Despite the levels of political polarization and stark disagreements between sectors of our society, Finland remains an example as a country in term of respect for democratic values and diversity in the world. We can continue these efforts for a more equal society that cares about all families and the new generation by celebrating our differences and taking the right steps in building from other successful experiences in the fight for equality.
Álvaro Augusto Sanabria-Rangel
Master in International Human Rights Law, Åbo Akademi
Secretary General, Human Rights Education Youth Network
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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