Good Relations awareness raising en

Ministry of the Interior 21.1.2014 10.42
News item

The Good Relations project is testing various tools and methods to promote good relations and to combat xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. The activities in Finland and Sweden include interactive sessions for key professionals and representatives of minorities, with the aim of raising participants' awareness of racism, discrimination and xenophobia. The aim is also to promote good relations by providing participants with opportunities for positive interaction.

Food and talks

In Finland, a total of 10 awareness-raising sessions were arranged in four cities by nine civil society organisations representing a variety of immigrant communities, people with disabilities and sexual and gender minorities. The sessions were organised during November and December 2013, and they were mostly built around a dinner and informal discussions between the hosts and the guests.

In Helsinki, a policeman with his four children paid a visit to a Somalian family with three children of their own. The family served their guests a traditional Somalian dinner. Discussions during the dinner touched on topics ranging from discrimination to police work, and from football to everyday life of the family.

In addition, three other visits were organised in Helsinki area: two Members of Parliament were invited by immigrant families to their homes - one of which was an Afghan family. The second family was of Estonian origin. The same Afghan family was also visited by a policeman from the Finnish Security Intelligence Service with his family.

A similar visit also took place in Tampere. - The most important thing is encountering another human being, no matter what their skin colour or background is, says Riitta Viitala, a nurse of a public health center, who visited a Tanzanian family. She was invited to a dinner and spent a day with the Kinabo family, discussing cultural issues and questions of day-to-day life, as well as public healthcare.

Confidential exchange of views

In Tampere, two organisations, one of them representing sexual and gender minorities and the second one people with disabilities, arranged a joint meeting with a teacher from the Police College of Finland. The discussions enabled a positive and confidential exchange of views and experiences on key questions as how can fundamental rights of sexual minorities and people with disabilities be fulfilled, and what should be done to lower the threshold of reporting discrimination cases to the police.

In Jyväskylä, two visits were arranged. A vocational high school social work student, Katja Valtonen, was invited to a Cameroonian-Gambian family. The day started by visiting a local mosque with the family's father, Ebou Ceesay. He was pleased with the concept. - It was a great experience to have Katja visit my family. This initiative was good and we were very happy especially when it came to sharing our experiences, Mr Ceesay comments afterwards.

The second visit was paid by a psychologist of the immigrant services of the City of Jyväskylä to a Kurdish family. In between cooking and dining, the hosts and their guest got to know each other and discussed such issues as cultural change and customs, as well as manners in Finnish and Kurdish cultures.

Language barrier sets a challenge to integration

In Turku, a representative of YMCA paid a visit to an elderly Ingrian Finnish couple to hear their experiences of living in Finland and coping with everyday life as returnees. The visit concretised the challenges that especially elderly immigrants may have if they don't speak the language of their new country and lack the social networks to get help when needed. - Booking an appointment to a nurse in health center becomes a problem when you cannot describe your symptoms over the phone. There's a risk that one is not able to book an appointment even in acute situations, Paula Nurminen from YMCA Turku points out.

As a follow-up, the organisation that arranged the visit will have a meeting with the central administration of the city of Turku to discuss setting up of support and guidance services for Estonian and Russian speaking immigrants and returnees.

Results to be discussed transnationally

The planning of these activities was coordinated and supported by the Organisation Incubator of the Finnish Refugee Council, which organised brainstorming and training sessions for the involved local actors. They were also in charge of reporting and analysing the final results.

The outcomes of all these sessions, together with the results of other tools tested within the project, will be discussed in a transnational workshop in Stockholm on 4th of February 2014. The activity reports will be published at this site later on.

The Good Relations project is co-financed by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union.

Read more about the project