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Finland among most racist countries in EU, study says

Compared to 11 other European countries, Finnish residents with African backgrounds experience the most racism, according to a new EU report.

Mies ja nainen istuvat erillisillä sohvilla.
File photo. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Yle News

The Being Black in the EU report, which reveals many challenges dark-skinned people face in Europe, including race-related discrimination, harassment and violence, was published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Wednesday.

The report - the second of its kind FRA has published - examined the experiences of nearly 6,000 people of African descent across 12 EU states. It also gathered data from more than 25,500 people of immigrant or ethnic minority background, including Roma and Russians, across all 28 EU member states.

It found that black people in Europe face "unacceptable difficulties in simply finding somewhere to live or getting a decent job because of their skin colour," saying that racial harassment in the EU is "all too common."

Finland leads in perceived discrimination

Among the 12 western EU states in the survey - including Ireland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Malta, Sweden, France, Italy, the UK and Portugal - Finland topped the list regarding perceived racial discrimination as well as harassment speech and gestures.

Some 14 percent of black respondents in Finland said they had been the victim of a physical attack, which was the highest figure among all 12 of the countries overall.

Those who said they experienced the least amount of race-based harassment, some 20 percent of respondents, live in Malta, closely followed by the UK, at 21 percent.

Some 63 percent of the respondents in Finland said they had experienced racial harassment, derogatory comments or threats - which also was the highest proportion in that part of the survey compared to all the other countries.

Only 16 percent of all respondents who felt racially discriminated against had reported or filed a complaint over the most recent incident, but the highest reporting rates were seen in Finland, with 30 percent saying they notified an authority figure about the discrimination.

High level of trust in police

A majority of respondents from the 12 countries who'd been stopped by police in the past five years, some 60 percent, said they were treated respectfully during their last encounter, while 16 percent said they were not treated respectfully by officers.

On a scale of zero to 10 with zero representing 'no trust at all' the overall level of trust in police stood at 6.3. Respondents in Finland trusted the police the most, rating their trust at 8.2 on the scale. Trust of law enforcement authorities was lowest in Austria, at 3.6 on the scale.

Respondents also answered questions about their perception of racial profiling by police.

"For the 12-month period, the level of perceived racial profiling during the latest police stop in Austria is, for example, nearly eight times higher than the level in Finland (31% against 4%)," the report states.

There are no laws on the books in Finland that specifically define hate crimes. However, police have improved their monitoring and recording of offences - both in real life as well as online - which were deemed to be motivated by discrimination and ethnic hatred.

There were some 1,165 complaints made about suspected hate crimes across the country in 2017, according to statistics compiled by Finland’s police academy, which is an eight percent increase compared to the previous year. While there were more recorded incidents last year, the number was still somewhat less than the peak recorded in 2015 when more than 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in Finland.

First or second generation immigrants

Most of the survey participants were either first- or second-generation immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries, or have at least one parent from the region. However black people from families who've lived in Europe for three or more generations were not part of the study.

Regarding racially-based harassment and violence, the study found no notable difference between men (7%) and women (5%). It noted that males who wear traditional or religious clothing in public are twice as likely to face violence (12%), compared to those who don't (5%).

The study also found that the majority of victims of violence (61%) did not know the perpetrators but generally identified them as not having minority backgrounds.

Thirty eight percent of the victims of violence identified their assailants as members of a minority ethnic background other than their own.

UK newspaper The Guardian was the first to publish news about the FRA called "the disappointing results" about the experiences of people of African descent who live in Western Europe.

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