"Finland First" association's demonstration camp at Helsinki Railway Square in March 2017

A NEW REPORT from the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency shows that people of African descent in Finland face the highest levels of discrimination in the EU.

The report, entitled “Being Black in the EU”, surveyed 6000 people of African descent across 12 European countries, revealing that the scale of discrimination is “much higher” than originally thought. Across all countries, African Europeans reported facing “commonplace” discrimination in housing, law enforcement, and so-called “everyday racism”. 

One of the most significant revelations is that Finland, despite its reputation for tolerance and progressiveness, is by far the worst performer. A full 14% of respondents in Finland have reported experiencing racially-motivated violence in the past five years, compared to less than 2% in Portugal, the best performer on the list. 

63% of black people in Finland also report facing some form of racial harassment, compared to just 20% in the United Kingdom. A fifth of those surveyed in Finland know a friend or family member who has been the victim of racially motivated assault, while close to half report being stopped and searched by the police. Finland also has the highest rate of reported incidents of racial harassment. 

Parents in Finland with black children also reported the highest levels of racial discrimination in primary education, with a full 45% of respondents facing incidents of racism in schools. 

Respondents in Finland also report facing discrimination in finding housing and employment at a much higher rate than the EU average, although the worst performers in these areas are Austria, Luxembourg, and Ireland. People of African descent who hold a degree are also twice as likely to be working in low-skilled, low-paid employment as their white counterparts. 

Michael O’ Flaherty, one of the report’s authors, says that it “paints a dire picture of reality on the ground”. He goes on to declare that “almost 20 years after the adoption of EU laws forbidding discrimination, people of African descent face widespread and entrenched prejudice and exclusion”. 

The report comes amid an uptick in high-profile racist incidents in Finland. A Rwandan woman was recently denied a job selling second-hand goods in a shop, being told her skin colour made her “unsuitable” for a role selling Finnish products. This week also saw the far-right group “Soldiers of Odin” intimidating immigrants and racial minorities in a Helsinki shopping centre. 

The report shows that not only has little improved in Finland in recent years, but that things may actually be getting worse. 

Adam Oliver Smith - HT