Not everyone is happy with the Nordic country's efforts to tackle growing racism against ethnic minorities.
Finland with its 5.5 million inhabitants regularly tops the charts as the safest and happiest country in the world. But the praise for its quality education and social justice masks the growing discrimination that migrants face in the Nordic country.
Immigrants, ethnic minorities such as the Roma and people with different skin color face abuse in public transport on a frequent basis, says a Council of Europe’s report.
“Racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse is escalating: the main targets are asylum-seekers and Muslims.”
Finland saw a spike in verbal abuse against the migrants since 2015 when the country took in 32,400 asylum seekers. That also led to an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric as some politicians played on the perception that the rise in crime was somehow related to migrants.
By 2018, the number of asylum seekers had dropped to around 2,400.
Absence of comprehensive data on hate speech and violence makes it difficult to ascertain the gravity of the situation, notes the report, which is based on background research and interviews of Finnish officials.
The hardline Finns Party, which campaigns on a platform of staunch opposition to asylum, has been the second-largest party in the past two elections.
Neo-Nazi groups such as the local branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement have organised protests and events to incite people. In 2017 the group covered the statues of female figures in different cities with face veils, stoking fears about the demographic growth of immigrants.
In 2017, the Finnish authorities recorded around 1,165 hate crimes, which included death threats, anti-Semitism, and cases of racism against Muslims.
Police are also accused of ethnic profiling and there’s no independent body to investigate those allegations, the report says.
While Finland has introduced laws to counter discrimination, some legal lacunas still impede the rights of migrants. For instance, the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal faces criticism for not helping people who report discrimination at workplaces and are denied work based on their skin colour or ethnicity or religious background.
Such cases fall under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which does not have the expertise to look into such matters.
Immigrants and people with different skin colour such as the Roma frequently face verbal abuse on public transport.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights report of 2018, 63 percent of people of African descent in Finland have experienced racist harassment in the last five years — one of the highest rates in Europe.
At around six percent, Finland has the lowest share of foreign-born residents in western Europe.
People of African background, which number around 50,000, face taunts over their hair regularly.