Finland Times

Monday, 22 April, 2024
Home NATIONALIntegration of refugees a challenge for Finland
Sat, 13 Feb, 2016 12:00:21 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report, Feb 13
Skiing school for immigrant children was organized in Paloheinä, Helsinki, on January 20th, 2016. The international skiing school project helps to get more familiar with Finnish winter and snow and offers a chance to test the skis. File Photo Lehtikuva.
Although immigration policies for asylum seekers have been tightened in Finland, the country is facing a huge challenge in integrating those already in the country into local society, Finnish officials say.
About 10,000 of the 32,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in Finland during the past year are expected to gain residence rights in the country.
However, obstacles await them, ranging from learning the Finnish or Swedish languages to finding suitable housing, which requires public assistance.
On Wednesday, Finnish Labor Minister Jari Lindstrom stressed employment as the best way to help the refugees adapt to their new life in Finland, adding that the construction industry has already shown willingness to hire them.
But it might not be an easy process with educational levels of these refugees lower than anticipated. Sakari Puisto, a special assistant to Lindstrom, said 20 percent of them are illiterate even in their mother tongue.
Asylum seekers with basketball. File Photo Lehtikuva.
Less than 20 percent of them have training certifications and less than 10 percent have academic credentials, according to Puisto.
Although there is no legal minimum wage in Finland, mandatory union tariffs make underpaid work impossible. Paying less than union standards is illegal, whether employees are in a union or not.
Interior Minister Petteri Orpo's recent suggestion that newcomers could be paid less for a better chance to be employed in the labor market was strongly resisted by trade unions and the political left. He corrected himself later that he was actually referring to trainee contracts.
The immigrant fluxes have caused a huge shortage of rental accommodation in major cities in Finland, as immigrants usually prefer big cities and those initially given housing in rural areas tend to move there.
Currently, over half of the 320,000 people of foreign origin in Finland live in the administrative region of Uusimaa that surrounds the capital Helsinki.     Tuija Oivo, director general of the department of employment and entrepreneurship of the Labor Ministry, told local media on Wednesday that an effort will be made to guide the newcomers to live in areas with available housing and lack of manpower.
Command of the Finnish or Swedish language is a practical requirement for employment. Oivo said the traditional process of first going through language training and thereafter starting to look for a job is too lengthy and picking up the language along with work is now considered an option.
While continuing to help the refugees with their integration into local society, Finland is tightening up its immigration policies to make the country less appealing to asylum seekers, said Lindstrom.
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