The changes regarding immigration planned by the new government will weaken the rights and well-being of intercultural families and immigrants.
The future government's policies reflect a distrust of immigration and immigrants. In its program, the government stresses its desire to strengthen democracy, inclusion, and trust in society. Differentiating social security for immigrants and permanent residents in Finland does not contribute to this goal.
Finland must be a good country for everyone. The government program only considers migrants to Finland from the point of view of public finances and employment. Immigrants trying to get employed often encounter challenges due to discriminatory structures and structural racism, as well as strict language requirements. It would be crucial to promote actions to address discriminatory structures and the racism people face, says Elina Helmanen, Executive Director of Familia ry.
The government program does not take into account properly the diversity of immigrants, and the fact that people also move to Finland because of their spouse. There are more than 96 000 intercultural families living in Finland, of which 86 000 have a Finnish spouse.
- Whatever the reason for migration, people should not be classified according to whether they are economically viable for our society. The government program does not portray Finland as socially desirable for cross-border families, because many immigrant spouses have to rely on social support in the first few years, says Helmanen.
The planned restrictions on immigration weaken the situation of intercultural families.
If the social security of immigrants is reduced to lower standards compared to others, it will also weaken the well-being of intercultural families and couples. Often the Finnish spouse in intercultural couples carries greater responsibility for financing the family, especially in the first years after their migrating spouse moves to Finland. Additionally, the tightening of the requirements for obtaining Finnish citizenship in terms of the length of residence prolongs the migrating spouse's process of becoming a full member of society; good integration is also about genuine inclusion and the opportunity to contribute to the society around you.
- If the significant restrictions for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship go through, intercultural families will have to live longer in uncertainty and insecurity about whether they will be able to live together as a family in Finland. For some, this may mean leaving Finland, Helmanen points out.
Intercultural families will travel outside Finland’s borders to visit the migrant spouse’s family, even though they are permanently living in Finland as a family. A reduction in the number of days abroad allowed during the waiting period for a residence permit would threaten the possibility of meeting relatives and close friends of the migrant parent.
Regardless of the reason for entry, it is essential to enable the immigration of families and family reunification flexibly, for example by reducing income requirements. Currently, there’s no income requirement for the non-Finnish spouse for a residence permit based on family ties. It is important that the criteria and income thresholds for family reunification are not tightened but, on the contrary, loosened.
The possible restrictions on family reunification are worrying. The family is a cohesive force and an important part of people's overall well-being. Many intercultural families are concerned about whether they can trust that Finland is a good country for families in the future and whether their own family form is socially accepted in Finland, says Helmanen.
It would be good if the government really could strengthen the receptiveness of the labor market, especially for people with reduced working capacity, immigrants, elder people, and people in lower education level jobs, so that these groups could find employment more easily. The position and well-being of many intercultural families will be improved if the employment opportunities for the immigrant spouse would increase. However, sufficient resources must be allocated to this, as well as to integration training and especially to high-quality language training.
An important step in the Government Programme is the commitment to the measures of the Language Policy Programme, one of which is the long-advocated possibility of registering more than one mother tongue in the Population Information System, Helmanen emphasises.
There’s no place for hatred in Finland
Not once does the Government Programme mention the word racism, even though it is sadly prevalent at many different levels in our society. The effects of racism are often more deeply rooted than we think. The experience of racism profoundly impacts a person's well-being, even years after the racist incident. It is therefore important to focus on preventing racism, discrimination, and anti-racism at all levels of society to promote well-being.
Issues of racism should be raised more widely in public debate, and hate speech in political discourse needs to be tackled more firmly. We hope that the government will not use its own speeches to stir up discriminatory discourse and foster stereotypes regarding different groups of people, says Helmanen.
Elina Helmanen, toiminnanjohtaja, Familia ry firstname.lastname@example.org
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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