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Record numbers relocate to Åland Islands

Last year more people moved to the Åland Islands – an autonomous part of Finland – than at any time in recorded history.

Ahvenanmaan lippu liehuu sinistä taivasta vasten. Seinällä Ahvenanmaan vaakuna.
Image: Yle

The Åland Islands between Sweden and Finland have seen a spike in people moving to the autonomous Finnish area. The archipelago's statistics authority reports that over 1,000 people joined its population of around 30,000 in 2016. Figures show that 700 of the new residents were Swedish speakers.

This category of Swedish speakers includes equal amounts of Finland Swedes, Swedish natives and people born on the islands who are returning. The group with the largest change is new residents that were born in Sweden.

About 100 of the new arrivals are Finnish speakers. Only five percent of the current residents of the island are estimated to speak Finnish as their first language.

Over 200 of the people moving to Åland in 2016 speak something other than Swedish or Finnish as their first language. The majority of this latter group originates from countries outside the Nordics.

The Swedish language spoken on the Åland Islands is closer to the Uppländska dialect of Sweden than to Finland Swedish, which has its own distinct dialect.

Åland as a part of Finland

Located at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea, the group of islands that make up Åland are the only monolingual Swedish-speaking region in Finland. Åland has maintained an autonomous, demilitarized status since 1920.

The standard of living on the archipelago is one of Finland's highest at present, with services accounting for most of the island's business. Close to 30 percent of the area's GDP derives from shipping.

In the 2015 elections, the Future of Åland political party – which calls for the region's independence from Finland – won 7.4 percent of the vote and 2 seats out of 30 in the Ålands' independent parliament, the Lagting.

Åland's representative to the Nordic Council. Britt Lundberg, recently made headlines for not supporting a bid to make Finnish and Icelandic official working languages of the council. Current rules state that written questions to the council can only be presented in the "mutually intelligible" languages of Swedish, Norwegian or Danish.

Lundberg – who serves as president of the council – has since reassured concerned Finns that when the final vote is taken in November, she plans to vote in support of making Finnish and Icelandic official working languages of the Nordic Council.

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