Yle discrimination exposé spawns police investigation

Finland's Ombudsman for Minorities Eva Biaudet has filed a formal request for a police investigation into incidents of discrimination against immigrants revealed in an Yle documentary programme broadcast Thursday evening.

Calling for job interviews in the Silminnäkijä documentary. Some employers were found to be practicing the kind of discrimination that the Ombudsman for Minorities says is banned by law. Image: Yle Silminnäkijä

Using a three-man test team of varying ethnic origins and a hidden camera, Yle’s Silminnäkijä (Eyewitness) television documentary programme captured evidence of discrimination in the job market, housing and the service sector.

The Ombudsman for Minorities, Eva Biaudet, says she considers the incidents filmed as cases of blatant discrimination and has requested a police investigation to determine if they constitute criminal acts.

"This is a serious matter and discrimination is a crime. Our view is that this looks to fulfil the criteria to the extent that a court should be asked to rule if there has been criminal discrimination as defined in law," Biaudet told Yle.

Employers favour Finns, break the law

One of the three men who went undercover for the documentary, Wali Hashi, who is an ethnic Somali immigrant, says that he intends to file a criminal complaint stemming from incidents that arose during the filming of the documentary.

Ombudsman for Minorities Eva Biaudet. Image: Yle / Aletta Lakkala

Minorities Ombudsman Eva Biaudet says that she was not surprised by the evidence of discrimination, but was by the flagrant nature of the discrimination shown. For example, in a test of the job market, two of six employers directly said that they give preference to native ethnic Finns, even though this is forbidden by law.

Few cases reported to police

The Minorities Ombudsman added that she understands that few people facing discrimination file criminal complaints with the police, even when they would be justified in doing so.

"We have requested the police to investigate all of the incidents brought to light in the programme. These kinds of offenses are rather rarely handled by the courts, and it is clear that the people who are subjected [to discrimination] feel extremely offended. I want to encourage people to file reports, but it is asking quite a lot of anyone to completely stick their necks out," Biaudet explains.

Eva Biaudet also stresses that discrimination can have far-reaching consequences if nothing is done about it.

"This is more broadly about how people from elsewhere are treated. Discrimination increases insecurity and threatens peace in society. If people are treated this unequally, without the judicial system doing anything, it can lead to alienation. For that reason we wanted to act in this case."