Finland divided on immigration issue, survey shows

Most respondents said they would welcome students and citizens of other EU states, but would shun refugees and asylum seekers, the poll indicated.

Image: Juha Kivioja / Yle

The hot-button issue of immigration continues to divide people in Finland according to a recently-released survey.

Just under half of respondents – 47 percent – said that they consider themselves to be pro-immigration in a poll conducted by the Foundation for Municipal Development, KAKS. Some 41 percent opposed immigration, while roughly one in ten respondents said they neither supported nor opposed immigration into Finland.

The poll also suggested that attitudes toward immigration tended to be more open in the Helsinki region, as well as among backers of the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Centre Party. However the most pro-immigration respondents were backers of the Green Party – some 79 percent of whom said they are in favour of immigration.

At the other end of the spectrum, respondents who identified themselves as anti-immigration were people living in rural areas as well as Finns Party supporters, 96 percent of whom said they oppose immigration.

Highly-educated individuals as well as senior white-collar workers were also found to be more open to immigration than other groups. Meanwhile less educated, blue collar and unemployed folk were not as keen on the idea.

Majority want fewer migrants from the Middle East and Africa

Respondents’ attitudes to immigration appeared to vary depending on migrant’s country of origin and their basis for relocating to Finland.

Generally speaking, individuals polled said that students and citizens of other EU countries moving to Finland for work were welcome, whereas refugees and asylum seekers were shunned.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they would accept the current amount or even more foreign students and 75 percent said they were in favour of seeing more work-based immigration from the EU.

Half said they would be prepared to reduce the number of asylum seekers and refugees settled in their local communities. Just one-fifth said they would prepare to welcome more.

The survey indicated that respondents would prefer immigrants from other EU states (73 percent), North America (68 percent) or Asia (68%). They were less keen to see migrants from the Middle East (60 percent) and Africa (50 percent), with many indicating that Finland should reduce immigration from these areas.

Pollster Kantar TNS interviewed more than 1,100 respondents between the ages of 18 and 79 in mainland Finland.