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New online tool encourages reporting of hate crimes, incidents in Finland

Organisers say the initiative aims to lower the threshold for reporting incidents motivated by hostility or prejudice.

poliisiväkivallan uhri kuvituskuva
The project aims to shine a light on harassment that many people in Finland face on a daily basis. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

Anti-Racist Forum, an NGO, has launched a hate-incident monitoring tool, TogetherAgainstHate. The platform allows users to report both physical and online hate incidents.

"Underreporting of hate crime to police is a known problem, and that's why we need a simpler tool for victims," said Akunna Onwen of Anti-Racist Forum.

The online platform collects data on hate incidents in Finland. That said, people should always report hate crimes to police via official channels.

Onwen said the EU-funded project aims to shine a light on harassment that many people in Finland face on a daily basis. The online platform is also part of a broader Justice Ministry effort training people to recognise hate speech.

"Police only collect information on reported crimes, but we want to gather data on all forms of harassment," Onwen explained. "Combating hate in society is everyone's responsibility...in a welfare state like Finland everyone should be able to live without fear."

A Swedish-language version of the platform will become available this month.

Onwen pointed out that hate incidents can be linked to language.

"It's not just about belonging to a language minority. Many Swedish-speaking Finns belong to other minority groups as well,” she explained.

The pandemic has fuelled hate crime and discrimination against foreigners, according to Onwen. She said synagogues and mosques in Helsinki have been spray-painted with Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic graffiti, while people of Asian background have faced racism and physical violence since the coronavirus crisis began.

"Collecting data is just the first step in combating hate," she said.

Veronica Hertzberg, who leads integration services in Swedish at Luckan, which runs a network of Finnish-Swedish cultural centres, said Finland is moving from thinking about integration as a one-way to a two-way street.

"It used to be that you came here, you learned what society expected of you and you adapted. Now we're increasingly seeing emphasis on two-way integration, which means society must also change and adapt to newcomers," Hertzberg explained.

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