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Finnish Somalis: No improvement in discrimination

An EU study shows Finland's Somali community still faces a great deal of discrimination. To improve the situation Finnish Somalis are coming together regularly in Helsinki to make their voices better heard in Finnish society.

Image: YLE Uutisgrafiikka

On the last Wednesday of every month a Somali club gathers at the Caisa international cultural centre in Helsinki. This is a forum for the 13,000 Somalis living in Finland and a place where Somalis from all walks of life can voice their opinions.

Saido Mohamed works at the Finnish League for Human Rights, where she is part of a female circumcision prevention team. She says the Finnish Somali community has learned to work together despite its share of differences.

The importance of banding together is highlighted by EU statistics that show Finnish Somalis are one the most discriminated groups in Europe. Half of people of Somali backgrounds in Finland say they have experienced discrimination in the past year. Prejudice is most often encountered in the job market.

The Czech Republic is the only country where minority groups suffer at the hands of criminals more than in Finland.

At Caisa, club members say there has been little improvement in the situation.

Abdirahim Husu of the Kanava Youth Organisation brings up a recent incident:

"A 13 year-old Somali boy riding the metro was called a terrorist by fellow adult passengers. He wanted to know what he could do so he wouldn’t look like a terrorist,” he says.

Social worker Mukhtar Abib says he was pleased to see that tolerance became a key theme in the presidential election.

“We need to work together to ensure that everyone gains a foothold in Finnish society,” he says.

Authorities have set up working groups to help root out racism in Finland. But immigrant groups say they what they want the most is contact with regular Finns.