Government Proposing Zero Tolerance in Racism Prevention

Helsingin Sanomat, August 8, 2007

According to Permanent Secretary Ritva Viljanen of the Ministry of the Interior, the current government is looking towards zero tolerance of discrimination in the implementing of immigration policy, stepping up action against racism and promoting good ethnic relations.

“Even a racist joke meets the criteria of racism”, Viljanen said at the publishing event of a new guidebook entitled Romaani kohtaa poliisin (“Roma meets police”) in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Finland’s new immigration policy programme puts the focus on multi-culturalism and anti-discrimination measures. It is committed to promoting good ethnic relations and preventing discrimination based on ethnic origin.

“Unfortunately, following the European trend, the number of crimes based on racism and discrimination is increasing in Finland”, noted Viljanen.

“Last year, a total of 748 racist offences were recorded by the Finnish police. The trend has to be turned downward”, Viljanen added.

The new guidebook was compiled by the Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with the Finnish National Board of Education. The purpose of the book is to improve the relations between the Roma and the Finnish police, by providing both parties with more knowledge on the habits and activities of the other.

Suspicions exist on both sides, said Kirsi Lindroos, the Director General of the Finnish National Board of Education. She also urged young Roma to seek a career as a police officer.

“The actual discrimination of our Roma population is one of our most serious problems”, noted Viljanen.

The responsibility for the work relating to non-discrimination and anti-racism will be transferred from the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of the Interior from the beginning of next year.

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