Challenges arising from migration situation

Crime prevention review 2016

The review assessed what kind of impacts the migration situation has on safety.

The crime prevention review 2016 focused on a theme that was highly topical in Finland that year: migration. The number of asylum seekers had increased drastically in Finland over a short period of time and societal debate on migration was active. The review presented information on immigrants and asylum seekers as victims and perpetrators of offences as well as means to decrease crime-related risks. The review also examined means to increase the sense of security in local communities both from the perspective of immigrants and from the perspective of the original population.

Immigrants, asylum seekers and criminality

A citizen of a foreign country who was born abroad and speaks some other language than Finnish as his or her native language but who is habitually resident in Finland is considered an immigrant in Finland. The majority of immigrants in Finland originate from areas that are culturally relatively close to Finland.  The number of foreign citizens and immigrants has strongly increased in Finland in the 2000s. In 2015, the share of foreign citizens of the population living in Finland was around four per cent. The number of foreign citizens seeking international protection in Finland increased during the autumn 2015 in an unprecedented way. The majority of asylum seekers came from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. The situation posed a number of challenges to the authorities, and new reception centres had to be founded at a brisk pace.

Generally speaking, the number of offences committed by foreigners and immigrants is approximately at the same level as the number of offences committed by Finnish people. The amount of international organised crime has remained relatively low compared to many other EU countries. Offences committed by asylum seekers have given rise to a lot of public discussion. Most violent crimes committed by asylum seekers have been directed at other asylum seekers. The share of foreigners among persons suspected of sexual offences is relatively high, which is partly explained by the high share of young men among this population group.

The risk of an immigrant to become a victim of a crime is higher than that of a native Finn. The relative share of foreigners among crime victims is also higher than the share of Finns. Asylum seekers are often involved in different kinds of conflicts at reception centres, where the atmosphere may be very tense. It is likely that many asylum seekers who become a victim of a crime do not report the crime to the authorities, for example because they do not trust the authorities or because they do not know whether a certain act constitutes an offence in the first place.

Safety can be improved by consulting different parties

The review emphasises that immigrants and asylum seekers should be consulted in crime prevention work. They may have ideas on how to prevent crime, fear of crime and becoming a victim of crime in their own communities. At the same time, it is of utmost importance to provide opportunities for the newcomers and the original population to become acquainted with each other to reduce prejudice and to increase understanding between representatives of different cultures.

Community work, taking the local community into consideration, plays an important role when the objective is to improve the sense of security. The review includes various good examples of practical measures aiming to accomplish this. Immigrants must be provided with information on the Finnish judicial system and the Finnish authorities through training, visits and advisory services. Work against the violence experienced by immigrant women and girls must be promoted for example within social welfare and healthcare services and organisations. Work aiming to prevent social exclusion, violent behaviour and radicalisation of immigrant youth is carried out by many organisations, also in cooperation with authorities.

The review also proposes that more research data on immigrants and criminality should be collected and it should cover different perspectives. More information is needed for example on the differences between the various population groups that have arrived in Finland and on the possibilities to improve the position of immigrant children and youth.

Survey on experiences from reception centres

In May 2016, the National Council for Crime Prevention and the Finnish Immigration Service conducted a safety survey among personnel at reception centres. Almost 900 employees responded to the survey. In general, the respondents experienced that working at a reception centre is safe. Two in three respondents had not been afraid of becoming a victim of violence at work during the past 12 months. Two in five respondents had experienced violence or threats, but serious cases of violence or threats were rare. The person threatening or using violence was most often a resident. The employees at reception centres had approximately an equal amount of experience of violence and threats as employees in the social welfare and healthcare sector in general.

According to the survey, conflicts and disruptive behaviour among residents occurred to some extent, but only a few respondents considered this a significant problem. The biggest threats against the safety of reception centres came from outside and they were directed at the residents, not the employees. One in five respondents experienced that outsiders' disruptive behaviour against residents is a rather serious or a serious problem.


Crime prevention review 2016 (in Finnish)

Report: Sense of security at reception centres (in Finnish)