Social justice and fundamental rights - challenges, problems and key issues in the context of Finnish immigration

Marja-Liisa Miettinen & Piia Puurunen
Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Kuopio
70211 KUOPIO, Finland



The purpose of our article is to discuss the social justice issues in the context of migra-tion. The conceptual framework is constructed within the concepts of participation and integration, and the discussion of human rights and Finnish constitutional rights. Modern Europe has come more and more multicultural, yet the reality has been characterised by migration and cultural diversity is a part of European heritage. Globalisation and wel-fare crisis, the features of contemporary conditions, are making a huge impact on peo-ple's lives and societies' infrastructures. The fact of multi-ethnic societies being a part of European reality has not necessarily made public opinion or nations' policies multicul-tural. With streams of emigrants flowing into Europe, the rise of multi-ethnicity has in-creasingly challenged the feeling of solidarity and European self-identity as the home of tolerance and civilisation. In this article, the aim is to analyze the situation in Finnish society. Policies and the Finnish legislation are emphasized. Challenges, problems and key issues are discussed through the point of view of social work and social policy.

Keywords: constitutional rights, fundamental rights, integration, migration, participation






Modern Europe has become more and more multicultural. Migration is characteristic of Europe and cultural diversity has become a part of the European heritage. Globalisation and welfare crises, as well as features of contemporary conditions, are making huge impacts on people's lives and societies' infrastructures. As streams of immigrants are flowing into Europe, the rise of multiculturalism is increasingly challenging European self-identity as the home of tolerance and civilisation (Williams et al. 1998.). In this con-text, various professionals are working with immigrants, and in a community or an envi-ronment that has to face new demands.

Finnish researchers Ikäläinen et al. (2003, 99) have pointed out that working with immi-grants is not merely working with individuals or families but also the frame of reference is dependent on the immigration policy. The Finnish welfare system has been tradition-ally based on the Scandinavian model, where one of the central features is equality. In a situation where the numbers of immigrants are increasing, the Finnish society (also in the European context as a whole) has to find solutions for people from different cultures to live and work together side by side. Migration highlights both the existing diversity of the host society and the boundaries of solidarity. Hence, Walter Lorenz (1998, 251) considers that all responses to the arrival of immigrants, and especially the arrival of refugees, are politically sensitive. Responses such as public discussion on migration, legislation and measures by authorities all 'expose the prevailing rationale for the exis-tence of boundaries of belonging, social responsibility and the conditions of citizenship and all their inconsistencies and weakness' (Lorenz 1998, 251.)

Lorenz (1998) discusses how people who have mental health problems or are homeless might 'cause' social tension in a community. It is thus a matter of normality and the ho-mogeneity of community, and legitimating boundaries of a society. For example, citizen-ship status is bestowed on those who already possess the assumed qualities of a given community. However, this does not acknowledge that such normality is not a natural but a social construct. In addition to ethnicity not being a 'natural category' but a social clas-sification, it is also the product of very specific historical conditions and political interests (Lorenz 1998, 252). Migration poses challenges for social work as immigrants share many characteristic with indigenous dispossessed people. Social work should pay at-tention to the mechanisms of exclusion because social workers themselves can easily become unwitting instruments of exclusion. One challenge is to confront social services' uncritical and too close a relationship with the nation state. The concrete arrival of mi-nority groups among the ranks of social service users also raises the question of citi-zenship in a highly acute form (Lorenz 1998, 247, 258).

In a way, minorities do not need to migrate at all in order to become entangled in such mechanisms; they can also encounter them by finding themselves on the wrong side of the border. As far as social work is concerned, the underlying pattern is the same; social workers deal with people who find themselves on the wrong side of a border. Lorenz (1998) therefore describes 'the immigrant' as a paradigmatic test case for social work. Displaced, dislocated people challenge social work to declare whether its values are rooted in a place (i.e. in an ideology of place), in nationalism or even in racist assump-tions about the given, innate qualities of those who deserve to belong, or whether it succeeds in transcending the securities of territory and nation to realise its universal potential (Lorenz 1998, 259).

In this article we focus on analysing these issues in the Finnish context. We examine the theme by analysing the migration situation in Finland. Finland has traditionally been a homogeneous country and does not have long tradition of migration. This means that multicultural issues are relative new in Finnish public debates, and the lack of multicul-tural tradition is also reflected in our legislation. We also consider future challenges in the Finnish welfare state, which is built on the Nordic welfare state model. Universalism and equality are the major features of our social services, but the question is how these features are facing multicultural immigration policy or influencing work with immigrants. One approach is to look at Finnish integration policy in terms of fundamental values and rights.

Fundamental values and rights in the legal framework relating to migration

Key considerations for ethnic minorities in Europe are the issues of migration, immigra-tion and free movement and their relation to social welfare matters. The development of common European structures and common migration policy and also the construction of European Union (EU) citizenship make a difference to migration. The legislative context is particularly in relation to controlling migration, to nationality and to the rights of refu-gees. (Johnson et al. 1998, 59). In the legal context the standards that safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of immigrants are of main importance and they guide and restrict the migration policies of the states. The protection of human rights and ba-sic rights and liberties lies in the responsibility of the state. In the Finnish constitution this is expressed as: 'public authorities shall guarantee the observance of basic rights and liberties and human rights' (The Constitution of Finland 731/1999 Section 21.).

There are three categories of super norms or standards (Karhu 2003) that affect the legal framework of immigration. These are crucial for the fundamental rights of immi-grants: (1) human rights and several human rights conventions, (2) the constitution of the Treaty on European Union and the basic freedoms in market, (3) the national consti-tution. Super norms also are based in shared fundamental values and principles. These values are expressed, for example, in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, as: 'respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These values are common to the Member States in a society of plural-ism, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination' (Article 2). The Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union forms a part of the Constitution.

These basic values and super norms restrict the migration policy and guarantee the ba-sic rights and liberties of immigrants in Europe. In Finnish constitution (The Constitution of Finland 731/1999 Section 1) the values are expressed as follows: 'The constitution shall guarantee the inviolability of human dignity and the freedom and rights of the indi-vidual and promote justice in society. Finland participates in international co-operation for the protection of peace and human rights and for the development of society'. The super norms are the cohesive part of a complex legal system. Their most important le-gal effects are that they guide and restrict the legislative power (also the secondary leg-islation in European Union) and oblige jurisdiction and administration in the interpreta-tion of law in favour of human rights and constitutional rights. But also that states and public authorities shall promote and guarantee those in reality - the measures are left open (e.g. legislation, budgets, and welfare programs).

The legal framework of migration is complex. The national legislation of Finland is based on international conventions of human rights and treaties, the legislation of the European Community (every member state has recognized Community law as a su-preme body of law creating a 'new legal order') and also national constitution. There are different kinds of human rights conventions: general or specific, universal or territorial. The United Nations' (UN) universal and general conventions, such as the UN Interna-tional Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN International Covenant on Eco-nomic, Social and Cultural Rights are of importance and so too are the territorial and general conventions of the Council of Europe in the Convention of Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Renewed Social Charter. There are specific conventions which are focused either on a specific group, such as refugees (UN Con-vention relating to the Status of Refugees) or children (UN Convention of the Rights of the Child) or on specific issue such as ethnic discrimination (UN International Conven-tion on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). Regarding the principle of non-refoulement, the UN convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are the most important. In these con-ventions the principle of non-refoulement means that countries have strict restrictions regarding their policy towards asylum seekers and the departure of foreigners seeking international protection. As an international law, the principle of non-refoulement is seen as a part of jus cogens (compelling law) (Pirjola 2002, 755).

The principles of human rights are universality and indivisibility, in other words there is interdependence and interrelation between all human rights. This means that even though civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights are usually placed under different conventions both kinds of rights are connected to-gether (Nieminen 2005, 44). From the point of view of immigrants' 'rights this means that fundamental rights must be taken into consideration as a whole and promoted and guaranteed as a whole, and the same also relates to constitutional rights. The impor-tance of indivisibility is verified also in the case law of human rights surveillances.

The main principle of equality and prohibition of discrimination plays a key role in all as-pects of fundamental rights. For instance, in the International Covenant on Civil and Po-litical Rights (Article 2) this is expressed as follows: 'Each State Party hereto undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in this Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, col-our, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status', and further (Article 26) that 'All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. In this respect the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status'.

It can be said that the principle of equality does not have goals or values of its own, but is bonded to the concept of justice and supports the value of justice as a principle. The principle of equality is normative, in both a moral and juridical sense (Kulla 2004, 103). How we can reach equality in reality is a political and social question. Juridical norms and standards are one way to secure equality and, at the same time, justice in general, including social justice.

Equality as a juridical concept is mostly understood as formal equality, which is the ba-sic requirement for justice. It means that same kinds must be treated equally, in other words treat equals equally (Miller 1976, 20-21). It also means objectivity and neutrality both of the grounds of the decision and of the person or body that makes the decision. Equality is also relative and in that case it complete formal equality. Relative equality takes into consideration the different circumstances and characteristics. Usually, relative equality is combined to distribution of benefits and burdens or disadvantages (Kulla 2004, 104-106). One way of describing social justice is that it concerns the distribution of benefits and burdens throughout a society (Miller 1976, 22). It can be formulated treat men equally, except where there are relevant differences between them. In social policy and social work this is often formulated as 'treat men according to their need'. Relative equality is important for vulnerable groups in society.

Equality can be discussed also in moral sense. This means respect of human dignity by attributing equal value to every human being, i.e. 'treat persons as equals'. This ap-proach differs from formal and relative equality (Dworkin 1997, 277). Moral equality means equal respect of human dignity and thereby arbitrary unequal treatment is for-bidden as discrimination. The prohibition of discrimination therefore means the request for equal treatment in the negative sense of the principle of equality. Social justice and equality in real life, such as material equality, are fiction, but the goal for society can be to safeguard equality in the sense of reducing inequality. Equality can be sought by en-suring equal possibilities, usually by social policy. Everyone is ensured of having ade-quate economic, social and cultural conditions, or the prerequisites to develop as a hu-man being and survive and manage in society (Kulla 2004, 105-107).

For immigrants the basic issue is justice, which is supported by the principle of equality. Equality in human dignity and treatment are a basic fundamental right and must be re-spected in any circumstances. One example of this is the principle of non-refoulement (Pirjola 2002). Human dignity is supported by the prohibition of discrimination and is of key importance to ethnic minorities. The principle of equality both in formal and in rela-tive sense means treating persons equally. It means that an individual or a group in the same position must be treated equally. In the formal sense it means that people are equal before the law and the legal procedures safeguard equal treatment. Direct dis-crimination means that a person or a group is treated less favourably than other per-sons or groups in comparable situations and this treatment cannot be justified on the basis of objective or reasonable grounds.

Hammar (1990, 54) claims that the real reason to control immigration lies in the princi-ple of equality. The different treatment of immigrants is difficult because it means two standards: one for immigrants and one for citizens. This means social exclusion and acceptance of the underclass, which is against the ideas and principles of a welfare state. However not all kinds of distinction are discrimination. The relative equality and grounds for different treatment are important. The grounds for different treatment of im-migrants in favour of natives must be justified politically and enacted in legislation. At the same time, relative equality means the possibility of different treatment in favour of immigrants as forming a minority and as a vulnerable group. Positive segregation of vulnerable groups or individuals is therefore possible for the purpose of achieving social justice and real equality. Without acknowledging positive segregation there is a threat of indirect discrimination (an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice puts a per-son at a particular disadvantage compared to other persons), which means that the same kind of treatment can be discriminative (Ikäläinen et al. 2003; Kulla 2004).

Human rights conventions and the Finnish constitution secure everyone under their ju-risdiction the rights and freedoms as defined in the conventions, whether a person is an alien, a national of the State, or a stateless person, and regardless of civil status. At the same time, the human rights conventions and the Finnish constitution make it possible for Finland make distinctions in the rights of aliens compared to those of its native citi-zens. With regard to the freedom of movement as stated in the constitution (The Consti-tution of Finland 731/1999 Section 9) that 'The right of foreigners to enter Finland and to remain in the country is regulated by an Act. A foreigner shall not be deported, extra-dited or returned to another country, if in consequence he or she is in danger of a death sentence, torture or other treatment violating human dignity', then in principle sovereign states can decide the right of entry to their country. In exercising their sovereign right to determine who enters and remains in their territory, a state should fulfil its responsibility and obligation to protect the rights of immigrants.

To prevent 'welfare tourism' it is possible to limit the other rights of an foreigner, for ex-ample through their social rights: immediately necessary help is universally provided (The Constitution of Finland 731/1999 Section 19), but social security legislation applies to persons permanently resident in Finland who have their actual place of residence and home in Finland and who principally reside here on a continuous basis (Act on the Ap-plication of Residence-Based Social Security Legislation (1573/1993)). In Finland, the duty to provide social, health and educational services are residence-based.

The legal effects of the fundamental rights can be divided into three levels 1) obligation to respect, 2) obligation to protect, and 3) obligation to fulfil (Nieminen 2005, 47). Ac-cording to the political and civil rights of the immigrant, the first effect is perhaps the most important, and in social, cultural and economical rights the third effect is usually the most important because it means active positive segregation of minority groups in order to safeguard their rights (Lorenz 1998). The obligation to protect means actions to safeguard human rights in the relations of civil society. The principle of prohibition of discrimination is of importance.

Immigrants' basic rights and liberties can be divided into three different levels in the context of Finnish constitution. First is the level of the individual which includes the right to life and personal liberty, privacy and family life, integrity, and freedom of religion and conscience. The second level includes the rights that protect human beings externally as equality, freedom of expression and right of access to information, freedom of movement. Finally there are the rights of a human being as a member of a community, as freedom of assembly and association, electoral and participatory rights, protection of property, the right to work and the freedom to engage in commercial activity, the right to social security, educational rights, and the right to one's language and culture (Saraviita 2005, 66). The first level of rights safeguard immigrants' identity and dignity as individu-als, the second level safeguards immigrants' rights relating to society and the last group of rights are the most important for integration and functioning as full members of soci-ety.

In the context of the European Union, the treaty of constitution guarantees the basic rights and liberties. In Part II of the treaty, the charter of fundamental rights of the Union has seven titles: dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights and justice, and general provisions governing the interpretation and application of the charter. Citizen-ship of the Union is to be conferred on every person holding the nationality of a member state. The status of a European citizen means the right to free movement, the right to residence, the right to vote and stand in local and European Parliament elections, and diplomatic or consular assistance where one's own member state is not represented, the right to petition the European parliament and to apply to the ombudsman (Johnson et al. 1998, 60; Treaty of Constitution Article IV-8). A new directive, 2004/38/EC, strengthens the freedom of movement and the right to residence, codifies nine former directives, clarifies the rights of a citizen, and simplifies the legal formalities and the conditions governing the right to free movement. After four years of residence a person with European citizenship can have the right to residence without any conditions (Saastamoinen 2004, 488, 493-494).

Freedom of movement is guaranteed by formal equality, meaning that the citizens of member states are equal under law and making distinctions is prohibited. However, in practice many factors can prevent people's ability to exercise their right to freedom of movement, such as family matters, ties to relatives and cultural differences. The title of 'Solidarity' in Part II of the constitution is more based on national legislation and prac-tices. For example, it is connected to working life, family and professional life, health care and social security. As an example, Article II-98 guarantees that everyone residing and moving legally within the European Union is entitled to social security benefits and social advantages in accordance with Union law and national laws and practices.

In the Treaty, policies on border controls, and asylum and immigration become common policies. The new Treaty provides that this field will, as a general rule, be governed by the principle of solidarity and a fair sharing of responsibility. The European Commission has legislative initiative. The concept of 'integrated system of external border manage-ment' is used for enhancing future cooperation at both the legislative and the opera-tional level for checking persons at borders (Article III-265). The right to asylum is guar-anteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees (Article II-78). The constitution incorporates the concept of a 'common Euro-pean asylum system' offering third-country nationals uniform status and common pro-cedures for the granting and withdrawing of asylum, and also a uniform status and common procedures for the granting and withdrawing of subsidiary protection status (Article III-266). The common immigration policy comprises the efficient management of migration flows, fair treatment of third-country nationals residing legally in member states, and the prevention of, and enhanced measures to combat illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings (women and children, in particular) (Article III-267).

The constitution confirms by including a provision empowering the Union to conclude agreements with third countries for the readmission of third-country nationals residing without authorisation in the Union. The main innovations concern third-country nationals residing legally in the Union; in the future the Union may adopt incentive and supporting measures for the integration of immigrants, excluding any harmonisation of national laws and regulations (exactly as in the case of crime prevention). In addition, there is a clear legal basis for defining the rights of third-country nationals (Article III-267). Mem-ber states will, however, retain the right to determine the volumes of admission of third-country nationals coming from third countries to seek work. This paragraph is of particu-lar significance given that although it affects neither access to the labour market of third-country nationals already residing in a member state nor entry for other purposes (such as family reunification or study): it constitutes an important reservation of national com-petence in connection with the common definition of immigration policy.

The European constitution introduces opportunities to protect the rights of minorities, which are at the same time threatened by restrictions on migration. Free movement provisions are based on expectations that immigrants will not claim welfare. There is a hierarchy of citizenship existing in Europe, with minorities and immigrants having signifi-cantly worse access to welfare entitlements (Johnson et al. 1998, 72.)

Situation in Finland and the quest for a multicultural society

From the European perspective the special feature of Finnish society is that Finland has traditionally been an ethnically and historically homogenous country. Finland does not have a long tradition of cultural diversity, although it does have historical minorities, such as Swedish-speaking Finns, Sámi and Romany people, Tatarians, Jewish and Russians that have brought ethnic and cultural variety to Finnish society from an early stage. Also characteristic of Finland is that after World War I and II the amount of migra-tion remained quite low and has included mainly those who came to Finland through marriage or granting of a work permit. There are no large immigrants communities in Finland (compared, for example, to immigrant Turks living in Germany) and Finnish im-migration policies have been traditionally quite harsh and selective (Forsander & Ek-holm 2001, 84-108.)

The situation in Finland changed crucially in 1990s, and since then the total number of immigrants has almost quadrupled. In 1990 there were approximately 26,000 immi-grants living in Finland and 10 years later the amount had risen 91,000. Somali people were the first big immigrant group to enter Finland at the beginning of 1990s (Tiilikainen 2003, 51). Finland was going through severe economic depression at the same time, and the debate on migration policy was related strongly to refugees. As Finland recov-ered from depression in the mid-1990s the discussion on migration policy turned to is-sues of positive increase in migration, the ageing of the Finnish population, and minori-ties issues. In the background there was the question of Finland joining the EU (Söder-ling 2001, 195).

Other reasons for increasing immigration in 1990s were Finnish-Ingrian people's remi-gration, increasing the number of international marriages, and exile and the positive change in public opinion towards immigration. In 2000, almost one-fifth of Finland's im-migration population were refugees (Forsander & Ekholm 2001, 108-110). The most recent figures show that the total number of foreign citizens is c.113,000 people, though the proportion of the foreign population still remains one of the lowest in Europe. The true number of 'foreigners' in Finland is closer to c.140,000, as a foreign citizen may apply for the Finnish citizenship after living in the country for six years and in some cases this time limit may be shorter. However, it should be borne in mind that the num-ber of immigrants is still low in terms of the Western European context. If Finland had proportionally as many immigrants as, for example, in Germany, it would have half a million immigrants (Koivukangas 2002).

Marja Tiilikainen (2003, 57) has pointed out that especially the influx of Somali refugees into Finland in the 1990s raised the profile of multicultural issues in public debate (see also Clarke 1999). As a concept, multiculturalism is therefore relatively new in Finland. Somalis in different institutions, such as schools, social services and the public health care system, have raised questions that were new to professionals and authorities. Al-together, as multiculturalism is increasing in society, it means new challenges for Fin-nish society and also for research, education and multi-professional work (e.g. Clarke 1999; Forsander et al. 2001; Ikäläinen et al. 2003; Tiilikainen 2003.)

Multicultural issues have become very important for societies today. Because of in-creasing immigration and globalisation people that are coming from different back-grounds are encountering each other, and they have to negotiate new ways of sharing in everyday life. Multi-ethnic and multicultural society has to try to (in an idealistic state) to face the challenge which ethnic diversity has introduced, but from the host society's point of view. This is certainly not a philosophical question about identity and human beings' sense of inclusion and participation. Politically, multiculturalism is related to people's understanding of citizenship, citizenship's rights and democracy (Lorenz 1998, Hautaniemi 2001), and in Finland those rights have been based on the Nordic welfare state model.

Finnish welfare state

When an immigrant enters Finnish society he or she will face a highly developed wel-fare system which is established on fragmented hierarchy, multi-professionalism and extensive official networks. For immigrants, especially those coming from totally differ-ent kinds of social system, the Finnish model might be difficult to interpret, as it is com-plex and full of diverse expertises. It might even prove impossible for them to find a way to resolve their needs and problems in an atomised system. Sometimes immigrants might also be suspicious of authorities due to earlier experiences involving corruption and iniquity (Tiilikainen 2003; Hämäläinen et al. 2005).

The Finnish welfare state is based on the Nordic welfare state model and development happened quite fast. The change from an agrarian society to an industrial one hap-pened relatively late in Finland compared to other Nordic countries. The process of modernisation and industrialisation took place in the 1960s, and laid the foundations for the establishment of the Nordic welfare state model and the development of the social security system. In next two decades the welfare state expanded and diversified. This meant that economic, political and theoretical dimensions of the Nordic welfare state model and professional social work were embedded in Finnish society. Also the social protection system is built on the Nordic welfare model and it is characterised by the principle of universality, a strong public sector and tax funding of services. In addition, economic, social and cultural rights are grounded closely in legislation and equal treat-ment is seen to be one important feature. At the beginning of the 1990s, Finnish society experienced a deep economic depression, which resulted in a financial crisis for the extensive social security system that had been established by then. The depression generated new kinds of challenges and it was also linked to the arrival of first big immi-grant group in Finland, the Somalis (Hämäläinen & Niemelä 2000; Tiilikainen 2003.)

Especially in Finland the institutionalisation and legitimisation of social work is closely connected with development of the social policy and ideology of the welfare state in its different forms. The expansion and differentiation after World War II of social work as an institution arises from the formulation of the responsibility of the state for its citizens' well being. The special features of social work in Finland are more deeply understood if they are examined in the light of the Nordic model of the welfare state. The aim of a compre-hensive welfare system is to ensure security for all citizens and social work is consid-ered to be a part of that system. Social security as a basic principle of Finnish society and social work's position, aims and tasks are closely linked to this (Hämäläinen & Nie-melä 2000; Niemelä & Hämäläinen 2001).

In the Finnish Social Welfare Act (710/1982) operations for social welfare are among the statutory obligations - according to the Nordic welfare model - placed on local au-thorities. The responsibilities of local authorities are to provide social welfare services and welfare allowances for their residents, to provide guidance and advice on welfare and other social security benefits, to arrange education, research, and experimental and development work, and to take other measures to improve social conditions and to eliminate social disadvantage in their area. Social welfare services are divided into gen-eral services, which are provided to the whole population and prescribed by the Social Welfare Act, and special services, which are supplied for particular groups and regu-lated mainly by special laws. In the case of immigrants, they are entitled to general ser-vices (principle of universalism) but there are also some special services included (Ikäläinen et al. 2003.)

Particularly in Finland and Sweden, but also in other Nordic countries, social work serves as an instrument of public welfare policy and social workers are seen as public servants. One of the main aspects of social work is to function as the final safety net in the social security system, although it is also involved in the prevention of social prob-lems. However, social work cannot be understood only as an instrument, safety net or an institution of the welfare state. The basic role of social work is to protect people against the state, not vice versa. As an institution of the welfare state, social work is, or at least should be, in a critical relationship with the political and economic structures of power (Hämäläinen & Niemelä 2000; see also Lorenz 1998).

Finnish legislation and migration

The Finnish legal context of migration consists of human rights conventions, the legisla-tion of the European Community and our own constitution and our legislation, espe-cially: Aliens Act (301/2004), Nationality Act (359/2003), the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers (493/1999), Non-discrimination Act (21/2004), and Act on the Application of Residence-Based Social Security Legislation (573/1993). These laws have significant effects on the lives of the people of minority origin.

Several authorities in Finland administer refugee and immigration issues. The Ministry of the Interior, the Directorate of Immigration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health are the most important coop-eration partners. In practice, foreigners residing permanently in Finland receive the same services and level of social security as Finnish citizens. Thus, in their normal ac-tivities every administrative sector is also responsible for immigrants. There is a risk of immigrants being confused by this complex system.

The Aliens Act (301/2004) was renewed recently in 2004 and has 215 sections. The purpose is of the Act is on exalted level: to implement and promote good governance and legal protection in matters concerning aliens. In addition, the purpose of the Act is to promote managed immigration and provision of international protection with respect for human rights and basic rights and in consideration of international agreements bind-ing on Finland. It is applied to aliens' entry into and departure from Finland and their residence and employment in Finland in a way that the rules, the rights and responsibili-ties are clear. The predicted demographic crises and the need for working labour from abroad are accepted as the starting point of the new legislation. This means linking im-immigrant status to access to work. In fact, humanitarian immigration and international protection was more debated in the preparation phase of the Act. Family units' rights, the rights of children, and protection under the law are taken more seriously than be-fore.

Foreign nationals' entry into and residence in Finland is subject to the provisions of the Finnish Aliens Act (301/2004), and Aliens Decree and the Schengen Agreement and Convention. Entry documents refer to visas, residence permits and work permits. For-eigners coming to Finland generally need a residence permit in order to stay in Finland for a longer period time. For the immigrant the most important document is the resi-dence permit. A fixed-term residence permit is issued either as a temporary residence permit (the document carries the letter B) or as a continuous residence permit (the document carries the letter A). A foreigner can obtain a permanent residence permit (the document carries the letter P) when he or she has been resident in Finland for four years on a continuous residence permit (A-permit). Those qualifying for obtaining a residence permit are employed or self-employed persons, students, family members, returnees, and persons from areas of the former Soviet Union. A continuous residence permit is issued to aliens who are granted asylum or a residence permit under the refu-gee quota or on the basis of the need for protection.

International protection means that an asylum seeker can be granted asylum or a resi-dence permit if international protection is deemed necessary owing to serious violations of human rights in the applicant's home country. A permanent residence is based on the status of refugee and asylum referring to the UN convention's definition of persecution: 'if they reside outside their home country or country of permanent residence owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of ethnic origin, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion and if they, because of this fear, are unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country'.

In cases of need for protection, aliens residing in Finland are issued with a residence permit on the basis of a need for protection if the requirements for granting asylum are not met but the aliens are under the threat of death penalty, torture or other inhuman treatment or treatment violating human dignity in their home country or country of per-manent residence, or if they cannot return there because of armed conflict or environ-mental disaster.

Under the refugee quota, Finland may admit for resettlement persons considered refu-gees by UNHCR or other aliens in need of international protection. The refugee quota means admitting into the country, in accordance with the grounds confirmed in the State budget for each year, aliens who need international protection and are to be resettled. The Government may decide in a plenary session to admit aliens into Finland on special humanitarian grounds or to fulfil international obligations. Temporary protection may be given to aliens who need international protection and who cannot return safely to their home country or country of permanent residence, because there has been a massive displacement of people in the country or its neighbouring areas as a result of armed conflict or some other violent situation, or due to environmental disaster. Providing tem-porary protection is conditional upon the understanding that the need for protection may be considered to be of short duration. Temporary protection lasts for a maximum of three years in total.

Asylum procedures are described briefly and concisely in the legislation, as too in the case of removing aliens from the country: refusal of entry and deportation. In the deci-sion making process of the legislation overall consideration means that account shall be taken of the facts on which the decision is based and in the facts and circumstances affecting the matter otherwise as a whole, particular attention shall be paid to the best interests of children and the protection of family life.

The purpose of the Nationality Act (359/2003) is to regulate the acquisition and loss of Finnish citizenship taking account of the interests of both individuals and the State, to prevent and reduce statelessness and to observe and promote the principles of good governance and legal protection when processing and making decisions on matters of citizenship. In Finland it is not too difficult to obtain national citizenship compared to the situation in the European context as a whole, but citizenship status is bestowed on those who already possess the assumed qualities of that the host community. The Act allows people to hold dual nationality.

The Nationality Act lays down provisions on the requirements for acquiring, retaining or losing Finnish citizenship and on the procedure for processing such matters. Citizenship means a legislative bond between an individual and the State defining the individual's status in the State as well as rights and duties existing between the individual and the State. The meaning of citizenship is diminished when the state has to secure for every-one within its jurisdiction the basic rights and freedom and when the right to social secu-rity and services is based on residence on a continuous basis. At the same time, citi-zenship for permanent immigrants can mean that they are a full member of society.

The requirements for application for Finnish citizenship are: six years of continuous residence (period of residence); integrity requirement, i.e. she or he has not committed any punishable act nor has a restraining order been issued against him or her (integrity requirement); he or she has not materially failed to provide maintenance or to meet his or her pecuniary obligations under public law; he or she can provide a reliable account of his or her livelihood; and he or she has satisfactory oral and written skills in the Fin-nish or Swedish language, or instead of oral skills similar to the Finnish sign language (language skills requirement). Fulfilment of these requirements means that the applicant is seen to be sufficiently integrated into life in Finland.

The objective of the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers (493/1999) is to promote the integration, equality and freedom of choice of immigrants through measures which help them to acquire the essential knowledge and skills they need to function in society, and to ensure the essential livelihood and welfare of asylum seekers by arranging for their reception. Integration is defined in law as the personal development of immigrants, aimed at participation in work life and the function-ing of society while preserving their language and culture, and the measures taken and resources provided by the authorities to promote such integration.

The law has recently been changed (1215/2005) to achieve more efficient integration of immigrants by clarifying the competence and responsibilities of different authorities (HE 166/2005, 1). The Ministry of Labour is responsible for overall development, planning, steering, and follow-up of integration of immigrants and reception of asylum seekers, and for coordination and at an executive level. Employment and economic development centres serve as the regional authorities, and local authorities have general responsibil-ity concerning the integration of immigrants and responsibility for related coordination measures. Employment offices implement labour market policy measures and provide employment services and education to those immigrants who are job applicants.

The key instruments of integration are the general integration programme, that munici-palities are responsible for drawing up with other local authorities. These programmes contain plans for measures that promote and support integration, collaboration and re-sponsibilities of authorities, and to how to meet the needs of immigrants in planning and providing the services and measures in society. The general integration programme consists also of the programme for promoting ethnical equality and good ethnic relations and the prevention of ethnic discrimination (Section 10).

The main instrument for immigrants is an individual integration plan, which they are enti-tled to if they are registered as unemployed jobseekers or apply for social assistance under the terms in the Act on Social Assistance (1412/1997). Immigrants are entitled to an integration plan for a maximum period of three years after first having been entered in the population data system of their home municipality. Also children under the age of 18 have the possibility to have an integration plan (Section 11).

An integration plan is an agreement between a local authority, an employment office and an immigrant on measures to support the immigrant and the immigrant's family in acquiring the essential knowledge and skills (such as studies in Finnish or Swedish) needed in society and working life and to promote and support their possibilities to par-ticipate as active members of society. The integration plan may also include education at different levels.

Municipalities and employment offices provide different kinds of services and measures that support integration, such as information, guidance and counselling, interpretation, language studies in Finnish or Swedish, preparatory education, labour market training, services needed for integration of children and young people, and for taking other measures supporting integration that can be considered reasonable (Section 7).

Immigrants who have an integration plan are entitled to integration support if they are in need of financial support and the intention is to promote and improve immigrants' ability to find employment or further training and to improve their ability to function in Finnish society by securing their means of support while the integration plan is being imple-mented. An immigrant is granted integration allowance when an integration plan is agreed upon and the allowance can be granted for the duration of the action plan. At the same time, immigrants entitled to an integration plan are required to participate in the compilation of the plan and in any services and measures agreed upon therein. If, with-out justified cause, an immigrant refuses to participate in the compilation of an integra-tion plan or in measures promoting his/her employment agreed upon individually in a plan, the allowance can be lowered.

The purpose of the Non-discrimination Act (21/2004) is to foster and safeguard equal-ity in the different sectors of society and also to enhance the protection provided by law to those who have been victims in cases of discrimination. The Act is based on Euro-pean Community directives and came into force in February 2004. The Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, relig-ion, belief, opinion, health, disability, and sexual orientation. The scope of the Act is lim-ited. It applies to both public and private activities, such as recruitment conditions, em-ployment and working conditions, personnel training and promotion, access to training, including advanced training and retraining, and vocational guidance; the Act also ap-plies to discrimination based on ethnic origin concerning, for example, social welfare and health care services, social security benefits or other forms of support, rebate or advantage granted on social grounds. The Act does not apply, for example, to provi-sions governing entry into and residence in the country by foreigners, or the placing of foreigners in a different position for reasons deriving from their legal status under the law.

Authorities have a duty to foster equality, which means the duty to purposefully and me-thodically foster equality and to consolidate administrative and operational practices that will ensure the fostering of equality in preparatory work and decision making. In particu-lar, the authorities shall alter any circumstances that prevent the realization of equality. Each authority shall draw up a plan for the fostering of ethnic equality (equality plan), which must be as extensive as required by the nature of the work of the authority. For example, the labour administration's objectives regarding the promotion of ethnic rela-tions and non-discrimination are as follows: facilitating the recruitment of immigrants to public administration posts; increasing awareness about immigration and equal treat-ment; encouraging the drawing up of equality plans and integration programmes to promote good ethnic relations; and developing a discrimination monitoring system.

New authorities were established to supervise conformation to the Act in the prohibition on discrimination based on ethnic origin other than in employment relationships and service relationships, namely the Ombudsman for Minorities and the Discrimination Board. A person who has been a victim of discrimination based on ethnic origin may seek guidance, advice, recommendations, and conciliation from the Ombudsman for Minorities. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations promotes the relations between mi-norities and the majority population as well as between different minority groups by cre-ating positive interaction. It acts as an advisory body to state administration by providing statements on issues under preparation, and it promotes National Government Organi-zation (NGO) activities for ethnic minorities by, for example, organising seminars on issues and the founding of an umbrella organisation. The Board also publicises the im-portance of immigration policies and minority issues through media events and other communications.

Discussion on multiculturalism in Finland

As a concept, multiculturalism is not very clear, and there have been some critical dis-cussions about whether or not to use it. Multiculturalism puts emphasis on presence. It means that several different cultures are occurring and relating to each other as a part of whole (Clarke 1999). In this article, multiculturalism is understood as part of migration issues and migration policies. When immigrants arrive in a new country, they are from a multiculturalism point of view entitled to be equal with the majority in political, economic and social life, and they have the right to treasure their own cultural background and language (Ekholm 2001, 166-167).

The concept of cultural diversity is closely related to multiculturalism. A multicultural community has the competence to recognise cultural diversity. Cultural diversity can be seen as a connection between different cultures, in which every culture is able to main-tain its own cultural specialities. The idea of participation is included in multiculturalism; in other words, different cultures can appear together and act together (Clarke 1999, 217-218.)

Kris Clarke (1999) has analysed different forms of multiculturalism in relation to power issues. According to Clarke, multiculturalism can be categorised in three different forms: managed, reactive and insurgent multiculturalism. In managed multiculturalism the is-sues of diversity are controlled by the (generally) dominant culture of society. The members of the dominant culture use control and power to make definitions about inclu-sion towards other cultures and secure that multiculturalism does not threaten the soci-ety's paradigm and structures. Reactive multiculturalism puts emphasis on the need to analyse boundaries between different cultures. It recognises that marginalised groups should be involved in public discourse but it does not recognise the possibility to de-velop alternative paradigms. The third approach, insurgent multiculturalism, seeks ac-tive social change (even political activity) and acknowledges the inequality in society between ethic groups. It questions contemporary discourses and tries to create new paradigms and social structures where diversity and variety would be a comprehensive part of development (Clarke 1999).

Ikäläinen et al. (2003) have compiled the Finnish discussion of multicultural policy, and integration. At the turn of millennium there had been growing discussion at political level about the status of immigrant minorities in Finland. In the decision by the Finnish Gov-ernment it has been said that in principle all the immigrants should integrate themselves into Finnish society. Immigrants are expected to learn the Finnish language quickly, as well as the rules of Finnish society. At the same time, it has been seen as important that immigrants are able to maintain and cherish their own culture and language. All these definitions of policy are based on a multicultural model which emphasises equality and positive separation, and in this respect positive separation means that immigrants are entitled to special services. Overall Finnish immigration policy is constructed in the lan-guage of multiculturalism but there should be critical considerations regarding the ar-gumentation of multiculturalism. In practice, actions that are meant to be encouraging and supportive might include elements of assimilation and ethnocentrism (Ikäläinen et al. 2003). If this is the case, then multiculturalism is more like what Clarke (1999) calls managed multiculturalism instead of being really participative and including.

On the other hand, Leena Suurpää (2002, 60-62) analyses how the discourse and rhetoric of integration policy have changed in only a very short time in Finland. During the end of the 1990s the focus was on controllable migration and effective integration, whereas in 2001 the concepts that we had been using changed crucially. Today, the main principles are ethnic equality and diverseness. The other main focus is discrimina-tion issues. So, the issue is not so much a case of acknowledging the diversity but the factors that cause inequality in society. There is also change in how the term immigrant has been defined. From 2001 immigrant has been seen to be a subject and active par-ticipants instead of being an object of different measures. Suurpää (2002, 61) sees also efforts to enable dialogic relationships with immigrants mean that multiculturalism is no longer just different cultures which appear together.

Suurpää (2002) has analysed municipalities' integration programmes as some kind of treaty of solidarity. Walter Lorenz (1998) has been talking about solidarity with respect to of migration issues. Solidarity has faced crises in the modern, globalising world. It is easier to help those who are farther away than those who are closer to home. People might give aid for famine or nature catastrophes, but problems that are waiting on Europe's doorstep cannot simply be pushed away. Lorenz (1998) claims that the arrival of immigrants, especially refugees, is uncomfortable for Europe because it has lost the power of defining the boundaries and lost control over the Third World, and this has led to the crisis of collective and individual identity, and new kinds of questions of ethnicity. The positive side of all this is that political arenas have become sensible to cultural dif-ferences, and this has helped minority groups to articulate their position in society. The negative side of using ethnicities as markers of the boundaries of community and soli-darity is that it reactivates nationalist mechanism (Lorenz 1998, 251-252).

The discussion on multiculturalism being-reality-or-not has involved different views in the Finnish discussion. It has been said that different countries' the migration policies have a background in the historical roots (such as family structure and distribution of an inheritance) which influence how a policy is carried out. Finland does not have a tradi-tion of a multicultural model and this too might influence Finnish policy. One issue that researchers have been pointed out and that was referred to previously in this article is that of equality (Ikäläinen et al. 2003, 30-31).

Equality is embedded in the Nordic welfare state model of universalism. Although our services have turn out to be more pluralistic as an approach and special services have been written in principle dimension, most of practice is still carried out according to the principle of universalism. Universalism has its supporters. It has been said that the prin-ciple of universalism has helped to prevent poverty among immigrants, and to offer suf-ficient opportunities for everybody: a sufficient level of social security, education, hous-ing and good health care. The factors that cause exclusion in majority population might push immigrants toward exclusion from a society. Here again, it has been pointed out that actually 'the immigrants' are a mirror in which we can reflect how well society as a whole is able to integrate any person (Ikäläinen et al. 2003, 32-33; see also Söderling 2001, 204).

Immigrants and future challenges

It is difficult to evaluate how well Finnish society has managed to integrate immigrants, and how efficiently our integration law has functioned. In the research literature it has been said that Finnish migration policy is more like (reminiscent of) managed multicul-turalism, ruled and guided from above. Migration policy has been carried out under the terms of the Finnish culture and administration system. Further, it is interesting to note that with historical ethnic minorities the questions of assimilation, segregation and inte-gration are still relevant too. Romany people have been living in Finland for c.500 years but still we are struggling with similar kinds of questions with them as with newcomers (Ikäläinen et al. 2003, 33-34).

One important question is to ask whether there is something that we might call the Fin-nish main culture that people should be integrated in. At the same time as we are talk-ing about the changes and crises of a tightly knit society, in our integration policy there is the assumption that we still have a united and undivided society. 'We' are belonging to this kind of society and 'others' have to integrate into it (Ikäläinen et al. 2003, 34). The discussion of integration issues are contemporary because of the increasing migration into Finland, which has led to improving and developing Finnish legislation. Also the concepts of welfare and equality have faced new issues as a consequence of the immi-grants (Suurpää 2002, 14).

Mikko Puumalainen (2004, 11), Finland's ombudsman for minorities, has stated that integration policy should be more than just seeing immigrants as a valuable labour force. Opportunities to work and Finnish language skills are seen to be an important part of integration. Work is something that binds us together in a society, but integration policy should strive also for other participatory dimensions. We cannot measure immi-grants' value only by work; children, ageing immigrants and stay-at-home parents should also have the right to integrate and participate in Finnish society. There are also questions such as when the integration process will end, when is a immigrant defined as 'Finnish'? The aim of integration should be sovereign and competent membership of Finnish society, but a immigrant does not have to become 'Finnish'. At some level, mul-ticulturalism should involve aspects of insurgent multiculturalism, so that it includes a participatory level (Clarke 1999).

What Puumalainen (2004) has highlighted is very relevant for the contemporary debate. Recently, the public debate on migration in Finland has followed the future challenges and changes in welfare society. The main challenges for social policy in Finland include issues such as availability of competent personnel in social and health care, demo-graphic changes and changes in family structure, and the care and services needed by an ageing population (Hämäläinen & Niemelä 2000). The discussion of migration and integration policies is engaging to the discussion of the existence of the welfare state (Ikäläinen et al. 2003). There is an urgent need for a labour force (pull factor), and at a political level this has led Finland to discuss increasing the amount of migration. How-ever, this might also lead to very selective migration, and to the question of whom we want to settle in Finland. Refugees and asylum seekers do not necessarily benefit from this. The procedures that they have to first go through, the language problems, and other issues related to the integration process take time, and the receiving society does not necessarily see the benefit of this kind of immigration. It is also matter of labour permit rights (for example who has the right to seek work). Here again, we resort to considering the right to participate and inclusion versus exclusion problems (see also Söderling 2001, 192-205).

Immigration could be categorised by push and pull factors. Push factors are problems such as famine, war or unemployment, where as better living conditions, peace, and positive images of other countries represent pull factors (Williams et al. 1998). In the case of Finland, or even Europe as a whole, the places represent a pull factor. How-ever, although some countries or continents represent pull factors, this does not guaran-tee that the status of immigrants is on a good level. We have to analyse more deeply and take integration and inclusion into consideration. How can immigrants be protected from marginalisation or separation? How can rights of participation and opportunities for integration in society be guaranteed? At the same time, how can valuable cultural diver-sity be secured? The principles of integration are written in the Finnish law and multi-professional teams and networks perform the integration work, but Finnish integration policy is still taking shape (Ikäläinen et al. 2003; see also Hämäläinen et al. 2005). The situation from the European point of view is also not very clear (Williams et al. 1998).


Fundamental rights are one approach to defining the concept of justice materially, and to safeguard those rights in reality as far as possible is a way to reach towards justice. Fundamental rights should be taken seriously. They should be implemented more effec-tively and legislation should be applied in a non-discriminatory way. There is juridical control of immigrants without corresponding development of immigrants' fundamental rights. As fundamental rights are indivisible immigrants' integration should be carried out with social, economic and cultural rights, and participatory rights, not just as liberty rights. This poses a huge challenge for nations' integration and social policies, and the practice of social work. The main issue is to recognise the positive segregation and to discuss deeply and thoroughly of the concept of multiculturalism. It is not just a celebra-tion of diversity but also a question of power and exclusion.

One way to integrate oneself into a society is through work. Western countries will need a labour force in the future because of their ageing populations. It is quite easy to carry out positive immigration policies that are based on finding well-educated immigrants. However, we should not forget other groups either. As Lorenz (1998) pointed out, immi-gration issues have highlighted the crisis of solidarity. Immigrations policies might turn out to be selective and harsh.

One important question is how social work is going to react to these challenges. How are social workers going to secure and speak up for immigrants rights' to participate and integrate, and to have welfare provision? Is there a way for social workers to ensure that immigrants will not fall onto 'the wrong side of the border'?


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