Colour makes a difference in Finland when looking for a flat, for a job, or when trying to get into a nightclub, according to the evidence seen in a hidden camera programme scheduled for broadcast at 8 PM Thursday on Yle TV2.
The Silminnäkijä (Eyewitness) TV programme sent out a test team of three young men, all of whom have lived for a long time in the country and who all speak the language well: one a native-born ethnic Finn, one of Russian immigrant background and one a Somali. All three had the same cover story as regards work experience, income and education. All three sought a job, a flat and to get into a nightclub, all under the same conditions. They also tested whether a stranger on the street would loan a mobile phone to them to make a call.
Colour matters in a nightclub queue
"Good lord, you're not coming through that door into here," snapped a nightclub doorman at the Somali test team member. At the same time, one of the white members was let in.
At another nightclub, the Somali and the team member of Russian extraction were refused entry on the grounds that the only identification they had on them were Finnish driving licences without any other ID. However, a driving licence was enough ID to get the Finnish team member into the club.
"Entry is not affected by gender or skin colour," stated the club's restaurant director Henri Vilonen in an email comment on the incident. According to him, the IDs were invalid.
“I don't want to be racist at all”
"We've had a couple of dark-skinned men here, and we sure heard about it. I don't want to be racist at all, but I avoid hiring them. Just for the reason that it's so unfortunate and I don't want to listen to the sad things that people shout at them."
This was a comment made by an employer to the Finnish team member during a job interview.
The three team members all phoned about the same ten jobs. The Finnish member was invited to interview for two, the ethnic Russian was also invited to two, but the Somali was not asked to interview for any of the jobs.
One employer told the Somali that he no longer had any time available to interview applicants. However, the same employer found time immediately the next day for the Finnish applicant.
"You can send an email"
A search for rental accommodations was much the same. The Somali team member was most closely queried about being able to afford to pay rent. The team wanted to look at 20 different flats. The Finn was invited to 10 showings, the Russian to 8 and the Somali to 7.
One landlord invited both the Finn and Russian straight away to look at the flat, but told the Somali, "You can send an email with your contact information and I'll let you know the situation. And, it would be worthwhile looking to see if there is something cheaper."
Proof of discrimination
The law forbids discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin. However, investigations into discrimination generally do not proceed far because of the problem of securing evidence.
"Our test was small scale, but even so we recorded clear evidence of discrimination. Some of the incidents seem to have also broken the law," says the journalist behind the programme, Sam Kinglsey. Kinglsey himself moved to Finland from the UK one year ago where he was a contributor to the BBC and Channel 4.
"Finland has an international reputation as a country that treats people equally and respectfully. As a white-skinned Englishman living here, that is how it's felt. For that reason, the results of the test were a shock to me," Kinglsey adds.