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Hate crimes most common in eastern Finland

North Karelia, Kainuu and Central Ostrobothnia reported the highest number of hate crimes in the 10-year study.

Kaksi huivipäistä naista odottaa pääsevänsä tien yli.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Officials in North Karelia, eastern Finland, have recorded more hate crimes against foreign background individuals on average compared to other parts of the country.

The data were published on Monday as part of an integration report compiled by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and were based on statistics compiled by the Police College University between 2009 and 2018.

While there are large variations in the occurrence of hate crimes against immigrants, they appear to be most prevalent in eastern Finland. Assault motivated by prejudice or hostility towards the victim’s ethnic background is the most common example of a hate crime. However other typical cases include slander and vandalism. Ethnic agitation cases are not as commonplace, the report said.

The majority of hate crime victims are foreign-background Finnish citizens or members of Finland’s Roma minority. Foreign-background groups most subjected to hate crimes include Iraqis, Afghans, Russians and Somalis. Hate crimes rarely target ethnic Finns, although such offences do occur occasionally.

In relation to Finland’s immigrant population, the number of hate crimes has declined in recent years.

Three regions stand out

The report noted that hate crimes in Finland do not occur in locations with relatively large migrant populations. The highest number of offences in relation to immigrant communities was recorded in North Karelia, Central Ostrobothnia in the west and Kainuu, also in the east. These are all areas with relatively small foreign-background communities.

When Yle compared the relative number of hate crimes recorded in different municipalities, eastern towns such as Lieksa, Iisalmi and Siilinjärvi topped the list for offences registered.

In small municipalities, even a single incident can skew the data in relation to the overall population as well as in relation to the size of the local immigrant community. Variations in the numbers of offences recorded may also be attributed to differences in the threshold for reporting such crimes.

Reception centre a factor

However two factors that all of the municipalities with high numbers of hate crimes have in common are a small number of migrants and the presence of an asylum seeker reception centre.

For example, tensions flared in western Finland's Siilinjärvi and Forssa in 2015 and 2016, when the country established dozens of reception centres to accommodate arriving asylum seekers. However since then, criminal reports have declined significantly in both municipalities

In the early 2010s, immigrants in Lieksa faced a great deal of harassment, with many cases ending up in court. At the time Somalis accounted for a large part of Lieksa's migrant residents. This group has generally been the target of more harassment and threats than others on average. However the situation has since taken a turn for the better.

While hate crimes are usually perpetrated by a member of a majority group against a member of a minority group, some cases may involve majority or minority group members only. In general, offences committed by minorities against majority group members are not recorded as hate crimes because police do not consider the victim’s ethnicity to be a factor.

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