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Survey: Reception centre area residents embrace diversity, reject "certain ethnicities"

A new Justice Ministry poll suggests two-thirds of people living in reception centre-hosting Finnish municipalities view increased multiculturalism in a positive light. Unspecified "certain ethnicities" are not welcome as neighbours, however.

Kansalaistorilla paljon ihmisiä Meillä on unelma mielenilmauksessa.
Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Two out of three residents of Finnish cities and towns with asylum seeker reception centres somewhat or completely agree that increased multiculturalism is a positive development in Finland, suggests a new report from the Ministry of Justice.

The report contains the results of a survey of residents of the municipalities of Tampere, Oulu, Nurmijärvi, Tornio, Huittinen, Forssa and Lieksa – each of which is home to at least one reception centre for asylum seekers in Finland. The poll was carried out between December 2016 and March 2017 and received 1,656 responses.

Just one in ten of the respondents to the survey said they completely disagreed with the idea that increased multiculturalism is positive. The results of the ministerial survey closely reflect the results from a similar poll conducted in Helsinki last year. 

Age, gender and exposure make a difference

The Ministry poll suggests that attitudes nevertheless differ greatly among respondents of different ages and genders, for example. Men as a group are more critical of multiculturalism than women, with 64 percent of men agreeing that it is positive and 73 percent of women saying the same.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

When considered as groups, young people and pensioners also tend to be more positive about multiculturism than men. Even so, every third respondent under the age of 25 was at least somewhat in disagreement with the idea that multiculturism is positive.

Among people aged 45 to 54, 40 percent were at least somewhat in disagreement as to multiculturalism's merits.

People's circles of acquaintances were also highly influential: the more multicultural the respondent's surroundings were, the more embracing they were of the phenomenon. 35 percent of those without a single acquaintance that was of foreign origin were opposed to the spread of diversity. On the other side of the spectrum, only 16 percent of respondents that said they knew between 6 and 10 foreigners felt this way.

Certain ethnicities still not accepted

Despite showing general support for multiculturalism as a concept, the Justice Ministry's poll also uncovered critical views of some ethnic groups. The majority of the respondents indicated that they did not care for neighbours from "certain ethnic backgrounds". The report did not ask people to explain just what groups they meant in this response.

This NIMBY feeling about "certain ethnicities" was strongest among respondents from the northwest city of Oulu, where 71 percent indicated that they were opposed to these kinds of neighbours.  The corresponding percentage in Tampere was 62 percent, the lowest percentage among the municipalities that participated.

The report also asked residents of areas with asylum seeker reception centres to relay their feelings with regard to their personal safety. Just over half of the respondents replied that the establishment of a reception centre in their municipality had increased their feeling of insecurity.

Responses to another question indicate that this feeling of insecurity diminished with time, however, as 71 percent of the people who said they were initially worried confirmed that this was the case.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

One-third of asylum seekers report discrimination

A separate survey cited in the Ministry of Justice's report asked 100 asylum seekers from seven different reception centre municipalities about their experiences with discrimination in Finland. One-third of the respondents to this survey reported behaviour they would describe as discriminatory: from people turning their backs on attempts at conversation to overt acts of violence.

Few of the asylum seekers that responded to the survey said that they have been victims of violence themselves, but most knew of someone who had been the brunt of violent behaviour. They said violence was most commonplace in nightclubs and bars, often occurring after drunken local residents start trouble. The most common discrimination reported in the survey was aggressive verbal assaults that often contained foul language.

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