National Report – Finland

Youth work in Finland with young refugees and asylum seekers

The situation in Finland connected to immigrants changed in the year 2015. During that year, 32 476 asylum seekers came to Finland and 4.5% of those were children. The asylum seekers came to Finland mainly from Iran (20 485), Afghanistan (5 214), Somalia (1 981) and Syria + other countries (4 796). ( Before 2015, there were much less immigrants coming to Finland and you could not describe Finland as a multicultural country. There are still small cities and areas, where people have not met any immigrants.

According to the recent statistics published 15 March 2017 in the Youth barometer, 8% of young people (age 15–29) in Finland have an immigrant background. Most of them live in the capital city of Helsinki and its surroundings (55%). According to the same barometer the attitudes among young Finnish people are much more positive in the areas where young refugees and asylum seekers live. ( More interaction,face to face, creates good behaviour among young people from very different backgrounds.

In the new Youth law (1285/2016) youth are considered as young people under the age of 29. The new law is based on equal rights for youth to participation and inclusion in the society.

The Child Welfare Act in Finland (417/2007) is a very important law for immigrant children and youth, especially when we talk about unaccompanied children coming to Finland. Family reunification is much more difficult after 1 July 2016 because of the new law.

Bachelor-level youth worker training in Finland takes 3.5 years. You can study youth work at universities of applied sciences. The title of the profession depending on the university is either Bachelor of Social Services (based on social work) or Community Pedagogue (based on youth work). If you are working in an institution which takes care of refugees and asylum seekers you have to have a Bachelor degree in education. There are also many volunteers, for example supported by the Finnish Red Cross, working with refugees. To be a volunteer you can have any background whatsoever as a citizen. Volunteers have an important role in Finland in terms of supporting refugees.

Youth workers in Finland work in refugee centres (asylum seekers), family group homes (unaccompanied children), non-governmental organizations (NGO) and communities. They use many different kinds of methods in working with immigrant youth.

Last year many projects targeted at youth refugees and asylum seekers have been going on. Those projects have created many new ways of youth work. The challenge with these projects is always the same: how to get those new methods rooted in everyday youth work and develop them further for meeting the needs of the young people and the society.

The number of refugees and asylum seekers coming to Finland is going down. The biggest challenge in Finland now is how to help young people staying in Finland to root themselves in the Finnish society. The challenges are the learning of the Finnish language to be able to study and work and the very negative attitudes too many Finnish people have against refugees and asylum seekers.

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