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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.

In October 2019, Council of Europe ECRI stated that ethnic profiling by the Finnish police is still a common practice, despite being outlawed in 2015. She criticized the lack of diversity in the police, which she said does not reflect the composition of the Finnish population.

In June 2020, the Chief Inspector of the Equality Ombudsman confirmed that members of the security forces, including the police, were seen profiling and discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity. The statement reaffirmed a key finding from a 2018 study that police, security guards, border guards and customs officers targeted minorities because of their ethnicity or skin color.

The Roma continued to face discrimination in all social areas and were often targeted by law enforcement and security officials. An investigation by Yle in May found that internal instructions issued by the Helsinki Police Department to record the movements of the Finnish Romani population meant that the police had been collecting personal information and detaining Romani people without legal grounds since 2013. Police officials said they stopped recording the movement of the Finnish Romani population in 2017.

In June 2020, the latest year for which statistics from the National Crime Victims Study were available, the Ombudsman for Non-Discrimination reported that 80 percent of respondents of African descent experienced discrimination because of skin color, 67 percent experienced discrimination or harassment in education, 60 percent experienced discrimination in the workplace, and 27 percent also experienced physical violence. More than half of the respondents said they did not report discrimination to the authorities because they believed that reporting harassment would do nothing. According to the Fundamental Rights Barometer, 36 percent of Arabic-speaking respondents and 31 percent of Russian-speaking respondents experienced discrimination in hiring or looking for work.

Reports published by the Finnish Parliament in February and December 2020 state that the linguistic rights of the Sámi, the indigenous people of Finland, are not being implemented as provided for by the constitution and the Sámi Language Act. The disadvantages are related to the number of staff who speak Sami languages, the availability of services and the fact that, contrary to the provisions of the Sami Language Act, the Sami still have to separately invoke their linguistic rights in order to be recognized. According to the report, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami speakers were in the most vulnerable position. The number of students studying all Sami languages ​​has decreased by 3.5 percent since 2020 to 710 students nationwide. In addition, since services have been moved online and to centralized service telephone lines, the authorities have not taken into account the possibility of accessing these services in Sami languages. Funds allocated for social and health services in Sámi have not been indexed for inflation since 2004, and there have been concerns that social and health care reforms could lead to further depletion of services. There were also few staff in Sami-language preschools, and funding for Sami-language preschool programs was insufficient.

The Ombudsman for Gender Equality stated that Saami victims of domestic violence do not have access to public shelters due to the long distances between settlements in the northern part of the country.

There are some issues with regard to transgender people, despite the fact that the Non-Discrimination Act directly protects their rights. So the Council of Europe, in its report on Finland in October 2019, noted the so-called “trans law” of Finland, which requires people to be sterilized before they can be recognized as members of the other sex.

August 30, 2020, the Helsinki District Court ruled that men who carried swastika flags at demonstrations by the Finnish neo-Nazi organization Towards Freedom! on Independence Day 2018! were not guilty of national agitation. The court found that the defendants did not directly threaten or insult any particular ethnic group. such a decision is certainly offensive to both Jews and Roma.

In the practice of Finnish justice, there are obvious abuses of the law in terms of spreading hatred. Despite the fact that the Non-Discrimination Act clearly states that it does not cover the area of ​​religion, in April 2021 the Attorney General of Finland accused Paivi Rasanen, a doctor, a member of parliament since 1995 and Minister of the Interior from 2011 to 2015, of inciting hatred. Rasanen's fault, according to prosecutors, is that she shared her religious views on marriage and human sexuality in a 2019 radio debate, a 2004 pamphlet, and a 2019 tweet in which she criticized her church's sponsorship of the Pride 2019 LGBT event. The same accusation was made against Bishop Juhan Pohjol, who was accused of publishing one of Rasanen's pamphlets for his community 17 years ago.

On March 30, 2022, the court dropped the charges against both Paivi Rasanen and Juhan Pohjol.

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