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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities Syrian refugees in Finland.

There are four potentially discriminated groups in Finland: Roma, African refugees (mostly natives of Somalia), Russian speaking immigrants and transgender people.

Roma (about 10 000 people) continue to suffer from discrimination in various fields including education, employment and housing. Somalis (there are about 15 000 people) are the least integrated group in the country and are victims of discrimination, particularly in employment. About 75% of Roma-children and Somalis live in social housing (the Finns – in 23%), 40% of homeless families and 9% of single homeless people in Finland are Roma or Somalis, although they account for only 3.1% of the general population. Cases were recorded of arbitrary searches and arrests of Roma by the police. Roma and Somalis are also faced with racist abuse in schools, even though the facts of segregation are not recorded.

As for the Russian-speaking (there are more than 50 000 people and their quantity is in third place after the Finns and Swedes) serious difficulties have also been reported in getting a job for candidates with a Russian name (even if he was born in Finland and speaks Finnish at a sufficient level). The procedure for confirmation of qualifications acquired in Russia stretches for a long time. In some cases the Russians were refused banking services on the basis of assumptions - on a national basis - of involvement in money laundering.

According to surveys conducted in 2013, 90% of Roma believed that ethnic discrimination is widespread in Finland. 68.7% of Roma have experienced discrimination in the previous 12 months preceding the survey. 53.8% of Roma have experienced discrimination in the labor market over the past five years. In this case, neither age nor education can protect against discrimination. 87% of the people who experienced discrimination in the labor market were Roma, 86% were Somalis and 76% were Russian, but they prefer not to complain about such facts. 48.5% of Roma have experienced discrimination in obtaining public housing and 54.7% in the leasing of property from private individuals. Interestingly, if a complaint of discrimination in respect of the lease of state property was filed by 44% of Romanians in relation to discrimination in employment in the private sector only 15% filed housing complaints filed - largely due to the fact that among the Roma was widespread misconception that the prohibition of discrimination applies only to government properties. Another big problem for the Roma - the pressure of tradition and community authorities on those who want to lead a more modern way of life (39% of respondents indicated that they had experienced one or other of Roma traditions and that they were uncomfortable). There were even cases of physical violence against the Roma, who abandon their traditional way of life.

As part of an experiment conducted by journalists on television «Yle» in autumn 2013 discrimination was recorded against Somalis and Russians in the labor market, during housing and even during access to a nightclub.

In addition, on January 16th the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland upheld the termination of parental rights of Russians Anastasia Zavgorodnyaya and her husband. In this case, both parents were not allowed to be present for the trial.

Transgender people cannot start the procedure for changing identity without psychiatric examination at the Central Hospital of Helsinki and Tampere before getting an appropriate conclusion (it takes 6 to 12 months), compulsory sterilization and “the test of life” which sometimes lasts for several years. Such a long wait, followed by humiliation over the use of “foreign” (and in fact - belonging to a person before a sex change) documents considered as transgender is humiliating. Many are protesting against sterilization, which is mandatory for sex-change, noting that they want to have their children. Marriages of such people are converted to civil partnerships that infringe the “second half”. According to a survey of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, conducted in 2013, 48% percent of people living in Finland have been discriminated against during the 12 months prior to the study. Students especially strongly felt discrimination: 48% experienced physical violence, 79% - psychological, 21% - sexual. Not less than two-thirds of them linked violence with their transgender identity. Office of the Commissioner for Equality received from 5 to 11 reports of discrimination based on gender identity per year between 2010 and 2013.

In June 2012, the Finnish government decided to cut the number of hours for teaching religious subjects. According to experts, it will affect, first of all, the religious education of the Orthodox minority, because the number of teaching hours for this category of students without this reduction is minimal.

A study focusing on discrimination of Roma has been published in Finland in April 2014. The study showed that 68% of local Romani people have been discriminated at some point in their life – for example, in stores, in labour and real estate markets.

On August 22, Finnish press published an article about the daily challenges of black taxi drivers. According to the article, many Finnish customers refuse their service and insult them.

Finnish trade unions made a public statement on June 26, saying that LGBT people are widely discriminated against in the labour market. Such discrimination is underreported, as the victims are afraid of informal punishment.

In June 2012, the Finnish Government issued a regulation restricting the hours which religion can be taught in schools. According to experts, this restriction would mainly impact upon religious teachings of the Orthodox minority since the amount of time already devoted to Orthodox religion lessons is already minimal.

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