Ethnic profiling is a problem in Finland

The research, journalism and art project The Stopped – Spaces, Meanings and Practices of Ethnic Profiling has examined ethnic profiling in Finland in a three-year study.

Ethnic profiling entails control measures that target individuals based on their ethnicity, skin colour, religion or language. Ethnic profiling is a discriminatory practice that violates the principle of equality stated in the Finnish Constitution and Non-Discrimination Act. Ethnic profiling can provide grounds for making a complaint.

The research project interviewed racialised minority groups and Finnish and Eastern European Roma, as well as representatives of the police and other experts. The study showed that the practice of ethnic profiling is closely related to police actions of immigration control and traffic control in particular, as well as in searches for suspects of criminal acts. Moreover, the study indicates that the actions of private security guards and border control practices can also include ethnic profiling.

“The experiences of being stopped often occur in everyday environments – streets, parks, stations, shops and while driving,” says Suvi Keskinen, Professor of Ethnic Relations and Nationalism at the Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki.

The interview material also includes stories of disrespectful and harsh treatment, arrests and even violence.

Societal trust and feelings of belonging

The study found that being subject to ethnic profiling lowered levels of trust in the police and officials, and could also result in an unwillingness to help the police by providing information.

“In a survey, persons of Somalian, Middle Eastern and North African origin reported having been targeted – especially by security personnel,” says the researcher Antti Kivijärvi of the Finnish Youth Research Network.

"Those who had experiences of being stopped reported less trust in officials, private security and the Finnish society in general."

Ethnic profiling also influenced a person’s sense of belonging to Finland, or to whether or not they consider themselves to be European.

“Ethnic profiling creates experiences of injustice and makes the people targeted by it feel as though they do not belong to Finland, although they have been living or might have been  born here,” summarises researcher Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji.

"Moreover, it is humiliating to be treated as a criminal, without a fault of one’s own."

The research combines several kinds of quantitative and qualitative methods and data: individual and focus group interviews (N=185), survey questionnaires (N=362) and participatory observation. The researcher Markus Himanen is working on a PhD on the subject.

This is the first time the phenomenon has been widely studied in Finland. The research concludes that these problems should be acknowledged before larger societal problems occur.

Journalism and art

The multimedia site www.profling.fi explores ethnic profiling through journalism, photography, videos and a comic reportage. The journalist Kati Pietarinen has published several articles on the subject, including for example, a report on Long Play in the summer of 2017.

In an easily accessible format, the website contains the research report, links to articles, Laura Böök’s photography and videos and Aino Sutinen’s comics reportage. The videos include the researcher Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji and the Roma singer Hilja Grönfors. Eastern European Roma tell of their experiences in a photo reportage. The interviews from the research and key results are presented in a webcomic format.

The aim is to create awareness and contribute to a discussion and establish a knowledge resource about the phenomenon of ethnic profiling. The website also contains instructions for making a formal complaint for those targeted by the practices of ethnic profiling .

etninen profilointi

Picture: Aino Sutinen