Migration, integration and its challenges (2)

 As we explore the Integration Policies versus immigrants’ experience of Finnish realities it would be nice to take a look at these concepts briefly:

Migration: movement from one place to another (www.dictionary.com)

Integration: individual development of an immigrant, aiming at participation in the labor market and in the society as a whole, while preserving his / her own language and culture. (Act on the Integration of Immigrants…493 / 1999). The following come to mind; Swedish-Finns, Finnish-Swedes, African-Finns, American-Finns, Russian-Finns etc plus non-Finnish nationals)

Challenge: test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking. (I think of the immigrant perhaps) and difficulty in a job or undertaking that is stimulating to the one engaged in it. (I think of Finland).

I had applied for a summer job, accepted after the interview when a few days later my would-be boss called me to suggest that I join the team of other workers for a picnic in Porvoo, in order to get to know them before starting work the week to come. I happily welcomed the idea. After going around Porvoo with the help of a Tourist Guide, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I got caught up in this conversation with a colleague who has lived in Finland for over 15years.

Colleague: ´´Where are you from? ´´

Jay: ”Cameroon”

Colleague: ´´What language do you speak in Cameroon? ´´

Jay: ´´English and French are the official languages. We have other dialects as well. I am from the English-speaking part. ´´

Colleague: ´´Do you speak Finnish very well? ´´

Jay: ´´I am not sure I understand what you mean by very well but with the Todistus (Taso 5) from kesäyliopisto I can manage with the basics. I intend to take some lessons in Swedish too. ´´

Colleague: ´´Swedish…what for? ´´

Jay: ´´Job opportunities and social interaction. ´´

Colleague: ´´Are you sure you need Swedish? In Finland it is easier to find a job when you speak Finnish. ´´

To cut it short I thanked him for the advice.

I started looking for information and came across this beautiful piece that was resolved on October 19 2006. Government Migration Policy Programme! Welcome onboard as we explore a few details therein.

The aim of integration measures is to ensure that immigrants can contribute to Finnish society in the same way as other residents. In the case of immigrants of working age, the aim is for them to get jobs and put their skills and training at the disposal of Finnish society. In order to facilitate students’ entry into the labour market, the teaching of Swedish for foreign students shall be provided to enhance placement in working life after having completed a degree or qualification.

Another highlighted point is that opportunities for immigrants to be treated equally and without discrimination in society shall be improved… It shall be ensured that the opportunities for jobseekers resident in Finland to gain employment are not impaired in practice…It must be taken into account that immigrants are not merely an instrument for solving a problem, it also warned.

There is no doubt that a lack of language skills, difficulties in applying earlier education, training and experience to labour market needs, and discrimination often limit immigrants chances of gaining employment, allowing them a place in some few sectors of the economy.
I would take the example of an immigrant with inadequate Finnish language skill searching for a job, say restaurant / office cleaning. In order to use the right cleaning agent the immigrant must understand the instructions that are mostly written in Finnish/Swedish/Danish etc on the containers and machines. In this case it is risky for the employer to hire someone who doesn’t understand the language because the potential employee may apply the wrong cleaning agent on the floor, which could destroy it. As a consequence the employer’s reputation would be affected and eventually he/she may loose the contract. In this regard I understand why an employer would not offer a job (even when he/she cant find a worker) to an immigrant on the grounds of weak language skill. However, as far as integration is concerned, I think that if the prospective worker is given this employment opportunity, with guidance as to how the job is done, what is to be done and with what specific material, it would reduce the time spent to learn the language of the host country because by the time he/she enrolls for language lessons, some foundation of work culture, ethics, job terminologies would have been established, facilitating a smooth path to integration through on-the-job training. The same applies to immigrants (myself included) seeking for work placements in government institutions with the hope of establishing professionalism and the required skills in the labour market.


Immigrants require information and guidance to be able to manage in society. As a matter of fact, one ought to be active in finding it out for oneself. It seems as if more and more immigrants in Finland are developing interest in the Swedish language. Permit me use this opportunity to encourage the Swedish community to be in contact with various ethnic groups and representatives who could serve as channels to their respective communities. If the opportunity arises I would not hesitate to be part of, and why not a bridge to the Cameroonian community here in Finland.


Furthermore the Programme emphasizes the importance of promoting actions which make Finland a better place to live, stay, start a business and work without having to encounter discrimination, racism and pressure to emigrate due to these reasons. This sounds great. Unfortunately it is easier said than done no wonder the document admits that in spite of the existence of migration policy values (the rule of law, furthering the implementation of human and fundamental rights, combating racism and discrimination, to mention a few) the impression legislation and policy programmes give of migration policy, does not always conform to immigrants´ experiences of Finnish reality.

This Finnish reality, which is of interest to me, is subject to interpretation. Whatever that is, we all have experienced it in every way, shape and form. I can only imagine what would happen to the economy if all immigrants (Bus drivers, Cleaners, Healthcare and Social Service practitioners including workers in Old Peoples´ Homes, etc) were to go on strike because of discrimination and racism they face. I certainly do not pray for that to happen.
Could the ability to endure provocation, annoyance, pain, hardship and delay, (without complain) be another Finnish reality? Queue number for services in almost every office. Waiting for the lights to turn green before crossing the street even in the absence of a vehicle. Infact all of these promote decency and orderliness. When we cross-examine ideas and experiences in life with friends and colleagues, I always share this; Finland is a country that tests your patience. Little did I know that someone once said something similar.
 Dr. Antero Leitzinger regards Finnish slowness as an asset. Once a foreigner has worked his way through hard work and honesty, he gradually becomes one of us. (Hanna Lukkari, Magazine Monitori 3/2008).
Dear friends and fellow colleagues, being an immigrant is not always easy, in fact it’s not a bed of roses. There would be trials. Perseverance is needed. Just as gold must go through fire in order to be pure, beautiful, and admired, those immigrants who work their way through hard work, honesty and endurance would someday attain the status of one of us from that of one of them. Yet I still wonder when an immigrant could be described as fully integrated. It seems to be an ongoing long process.


The attitudes of the immigrant and that of the host society have a great role in this integration process. Little contributions may appear insignificant but such little effort from each of us would add up to something.  In my opinion, language is just one of the many tools for integration. I wish there would be more emphasis on the other tools like the European Migration Network, previous skills, besides language proficiency. In your experiences as a minority you must have noticed that differences within people are not always valued as an asset, they more usually lead to suspicion or rejection.
Has the time come for us to begin showing a little more compassion and tolerance toward some of our distant cousins? Maybe there is not as much distance between us as we thought.



As we come to the end of our journey please help me find answers to these questions.


1) Is there more prejudice associated with recruiting immigrants?


2) How important is it for authorities to adopt a constructive attitude to recruit immigrants to work in the public sector?

3) Have Finnish attitudes toward immigrants become more negative or positive in recent years?


´twas a pleasure having you onboard. Ansluta sig till oss igen, or shall I say vålkommen igen?