Finland is ‘worst in Europe’ for racial harassment and violence

Mixed message: black people in Finland say they trust the police; but still have the highest levels of discrimination in the EU.

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File picture of young man with minority background holding Finnish flag / Credit: iStock

An annual survey of 25,000 people across the European Union with an immigrant or minority background has found that Finland has the highest levels of perceived racist harassment in twelve of the EU countries that were studied in-depth.

Some 63% of people in Finland with a minority background said they’d been on the receiving end of harassment at least once in the previous five years. The average across Europe was 30% with Malta at the lowest end of the scale at 20%.

The study also finds the highest rates of racist violence, including assault by a police officer, were found in Finland with 14% of minority background people saying it had happened to them. In Portugal the rate was just 2%.

But Finland had the highest rate of complaints to the police about such behaviour.

Graph showing results of racism study / Credit: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

The study shows that black people in the EU – and Finland – face difficulties in simply finding somewhere to live or getting a decent job because of their skin colour. Racial harassment and violence are common.

“In the 21st century, there is no excuse for racial discrimination. Yet black people in the EU today are still victims of widespread and unacceptable levels of discrimination and harassment simply because of their skin colour” says Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights FRA.

“We need to stamp this out once and for all. For this, Member States need effective and targeted policies and laws to ensure black people are fully included in our society” says O’Flaherty.

Police trust vs racial harassment 

The new FRA survey looks specifically at police interaction with people of African decent, where men are three times more likely to be stopped by officers than women.

Among those people stopped by police during the previous year, only 18% in Finland thought it was racially motivated – the lowest of any European country. In contrast, that figure is 70% in Austria.

Meanwhile on a scale of one to ten, black people in Finland trusted the police more than any other country – giving an 8.2 trust score. At the other end of the scale, black people in Austria gave police a 3.6 trust score.

Almost a third of respondents in Austria and Denmark said the police treated them disrespectfully the last time they were stopped. While in Finland, Ireland and France respondents said the opposite, that police treated them respectfully.

The results show that levels of trust in the police are not affected by a police stop itself, but by whether the stop is perceived as racial profiling.