13:24 GMT +314 October 2019
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    Finland Sees Rise in Hate Crimes and Unreported Racism

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    The number of reported hate crimes is rising in Finland after many years remaining stable, according to a report by the country's Police University College. The majority of the country's hate offenses occur in southern Finland, and up to 80 percent of them are of a racist nature. At the same time, police fear that most crimes go unreported.

    Until recently, the number of criminal reports of hate crimes has hovered at around 800 a year, College research director Vesa Muttilainen told Finnish national broadcaster Yle. However, police are still lagging behind with respect to their data crunching, as the latest figures available are from 2014. According to police hate crime specialist Måns Enqvist, it is already obvious that the number of reported hate offences is on the rise, citing the recent increase of the number of asylum-seekers in the country as the main reason.

    "Of course, one reason is that the climate for discussion in Finland has changed. We are more likely to say anything at all. And this creates a foundation for moving from speech to action," Enqvist explained. "Naturally, the arrival of a large number of asylum seekers last year has intensified the public discussion. It seems that the social climate is now encouraging for this type of crime," he added.

    Since Finland's criminal code offers no definition between hate crimes and racially-motivated crimes, police have to resort to scientific explanations. A hate crime is therefore defined based on the motive, which is hatred of the victim's ethnic or national background, religious convictions, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender 'expression', or disability.

    According to Finnish researchers, the vast majority of hate crimes (up to 80 percent) have racist characteristics. Crime statistics indicate that nearly half of all racist crimes occur in southern Finland, most notably the Uusimaa region, which has the highest proportion of immigrants.
    Enqvist pointed out the large number of potential victims in these areas as the reason for the statistical jump. He also added that the threshold for hate speech and hate crimes in municipalities with accommodation centers is low.

    At present, a vast majority of hate crimes remain unreported, but Finnish police are working to develop relations with minority groups that may become potential victims of hate crimes in an attempt to get a more accurate picture of the phenomenon.

    Earlier this month, a 28-year-old anti-Nazi protester was killed in a street fight by a founding member of the Finnish branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement. The deadly scuffle took place during a demonstration in Helsinki after two Iraqi asylum seekers were arrested for murder and robbery in Kajaani, northern Finland, after an elderly Finn there was killed by burglars in his home.

    Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that it was important to thoroughly review the legality of far-right organizations that embrace violence. He added that if necessary, the law would be revised. Sipilä also called for a review to determine whether or not Finnish legislation is up to date on dealing with hate-motivated speech and actions.

    Finland's Minister of Finance and former Minister of the Interior and current chair of the National Coalition Party, Petteri Orpo, said he was very concerned about the situation in Finland and advocated a ban on violent extremist groups.

    Tuomas Portaankorva, the head of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service, Supo, retorted, however, that right-wing extremism posed no direct threat to Finnish security.

    According to Mikael Brunila, a journalist and expert on extremism, Finnish neo-Nazis are few and far between, yet receive disproportionate media attention. According to his calculations, there are no more than 50-60 active neo-Nazis in the nation of 5.4 million, Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reported.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    migrant crisis, hate crimes, racism, neo-nazism, Yle, Scandinavia, Finland
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