Double minorities often forgotten in public services

Written by Johanna Warius, ERI alumna

While there seems tJohanna kuvao be few issues challenging asylum seekers as the Hot Topic #1 in Finnish public debate, an increasingly un-nuanced image of ‘immigrants’, ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ is emerging. It should go without saying that, as in any other group of people, there is plenty of variation within these categories.

Health status and disability are two of the factors placing certain immigrant persons at an even bigger disadvantage than those who do not face these issues. The concept of minorities within minorities, or double minorities, is useful in this context. It describes how an immigrant person with a disability or a long-term illness has to endure and be able to solve challenges on two fronts.

Navigating the Finnish social services structure can be a battle for anyone, let alone for a person with lacking language and cultural skills. Add mapping, applying for and using disability services to the regular palette, and you’ll most likely be in need of specialised guidance.

This is what Hilma – the Support Centre for Immigrant Persons with Disabilities, a third sector actor located in East Helsinki, provides. At the Support Centre Hilma clients can get help in dealing with issues relating to public services, housing, employment, education and health care, etc. In short, the idea is to have one place from where you will not immediately be sent to the next counter. Our task is to gather the information and give the support needed to move forward in the situation at hand. Quite often we find that a good solution is available, but the client has not been aware of her or his rights or how to apply for the available services.

Although Finland has (at least up until recently) relatively well-working public services, they are often planned to be used by a rather homogeneous group. This is why Support Centre Hilma also does advocacy work in order to make sure that immigrants are taken into account in disability-specific services and that people with disabilities and long-term illnesses are not forgotten in immigrant integration services.

Finland can and should get a lot better at planning and providing services for its increasingly diverse population – whether we’re talking about ethnic origin, health, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or any other identity or personal quality.

An adequate understanding of diversity is undoubtedly key in effective advocacy for diversity-serving public services. Having had the privilege of studying these issues as one of the first ‘eriits’ when the programme was launched back in 2008, I trust I have the required expertise. The ERI programme provided the solid ground that I needed to work with human rights and equality issues in the third sector.

Johanna Warius is a coordinator at Hilma – the Support Centre for Immigrant Persons with Disabilities. She graduated from the ERI-programme in 2011 with a major in sociology.

The role of history in present day intergroup relations

The first CEREN seminar of 2016 was organized 21st January together with the research area of Cultural and Social Diversities and Intergroup Relations within the Doctoral Program in Social Sciences. The invited international guest speaker Borja Martinovic is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science (Ercomer) at Utrecht University. Ercomer also organizes a Master’s Degree Programme in Migration, Ethnic Relations and Multiculturalism.

IMG_9868Martinovic started her presentation by talking about the theory of social representation and in specific research establishing the importance of social representation of history for current intergroup relations. Her own research focus is on historical claims of territorial ownership. Intergroup relations often revolve around the question of “who owns the country”. The question of ownership and entitlements is relevant also in more peaceful immigrant receiving societies. Martinovic pointed out that even if there is no legal ownership to be claimed, there may be a strong idea of collective psychological ownership.  Historical narratives can be used to claim ownership and affect present day intergroup relations.  Autochthony meaning entitlement for firstcomers, is a concept that Martinovic has adopted in her research. She has been working with case studies in Australia, USA, Transsylvania and the Chilean and Bolivian border area where she has researched different types of historical ownership claims.  One conclusion she has made is that the way we interpret intergroup history guides our attitudes towards out-groups in the present.

Borja Martinovic’s visit to Helsinki has been important in many ways, also for the ERI programme. In the future, there will be closer cooperation as both teacher and student mobility between Helsinki and Utrecht will be developed.

Written by Anna Storgårds, coordinator of the ERI-programme

Discrimination, polarisation, youth and violent radicalisation

The CEREN project SYPONUR is looking into factors influencing Islamic radicalisation in Finland. This is something that has not been intensively studied before in Finland. The project’s interim report was published during an event on 15th December where Karin Creutz and Juha Saarinen presented their research findings within the project. SYPONUR is led by Marko Juntunen and the name comes from the Finnish words for discrimination, polarisation, youth and violent radicalisation. The seminar attracted over 50 participants.nyhet324_513pxThe event also included a panel discussion where Tuuli Hongisto, (reporter, Radio Helsinki), Pia Jardi (vice chairman, SINE), Ari Evwaraye (Ministry of the Interior) and Anna Sekular (researcher, CAGE) discussed about violent radicalisation as challenge to the Finnish internal security.paneeli See the whole discussion here (In Finnish).

Read the report here (In Finnish).

See newspaper articles about the project here, Helsingin Sanomat, Hufvudstadsbladet, Svenska YLE, YLE.

The significance of the rhetoric in the immigration and refugee debate

Bridget Anderson, the Professor of migration and citizenship at Oxford University and the research director of COMPAS (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society), held a presentation at CEREN research seminar on 24th November. Her topic considered the rhetoric around the discussions on refugees and immigrants, as she introduced the perceptions of immigrants, on the other hand, as “hard workers”, and on the other hand, as “poor slaves”. Anderson reminds that human mobility is not a new phenomenon, and it has been regulated for centuries. However, migration as we understand it today appeared with the emergence of nation states and the idea of citizenship.

In the shadow of recent refugee developments in Europe, Anderson reflects how people use and understand the term ‘refugee’ nowadays. As ‘migrant’ tends to dehumanize people and relate them to negative contexts, the word ‘refugee’ refers in many conversations to the people in need of help and protection. Still, ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’ as terms are also legal terms, and therefore, they comprise different rights. According to Anderson, there is sometimes a contradiction between the rhetoric and the legal rights, which makes this subject a highly political matter. In addition, we should remember that we do not have refugees without economic migrants, and having asylum seekers requires the existence of deportations. In other words, inclusion creates exclusion and vice versa. The complexity arises from the question ‘under which rules do we include people?’

Like already mentioned the term ‘migrant’ is often used in a derogatory manner. Anderson exemplifies this by reminding how EU-migrants are in many settings called expats or mobile EU-citizens instead of migrants. Thus, it is possible to claim that in today’s world ‘migrants’ represent the global poor. As the place of birth tends to define the levels of wealth, the human mobility from the Global South to the developed countries is conceived often as a threat to our Western lifestyles. Migrants appear also as a risk to the welfare state as its capacity is not enough to take care of all the impoverished in the world. This reveals a motive for exclusion. Moreover, images of nation relate still rigidly to images of ancestry and race.

Anderson introduces the two diverse discourses on economic immigrants: the first one perceiving migrants as “poor slaves” suffering from constant exploitation, and the second one presenting these non-citizens as hardworking economic contributors. The metaphors from the historical cross-Atlantic slave trade highlight the dimension how immigrants, especially the ones crossing the Mediterranean Sea, have been taken advantage of. Despite the similar risks of the dangerous sea travels in overcrowded boats in common to “new and old slavery”, Anderson underlines that these two are very different phenomena. Whereas today’s smuggled migrants pay voluntarily to get illegally into Europe, the slaves of the cross-Atlantic slave trade were kidnapped against their will. In addition, the slave traders until the 19th century were practicing a legal profession.

The other common rhetoric on immigrants conceives them as “good workers” having an extremely good work ethics, and therefore, being more desirable employees. It is acknowledged that immigrants accept low-paid and seasonal jobs and work with anti-social hours, which do not attract the native populations. However, like Anderson notes, this is partly due to the fact that immigrant regimes build systems, in which immigrants depend on their employers. For instance, the links between work and residency force immigrants to certain flexibility. Furthermore, as the immigrant rules make immigrants to leave their families behind, they can accept seasonal contracts and large amounts of night shifts, which is often impossible for natives with families. This shows how “good work ethics” does not explain everything. Anderson highlights how we need to recognize both the differences and the connections of immigrants and citizens. According to her, “poor slave”, same as “good worker” presents a special case, and thus may hinder us seeing these crucial linkages. Immigration control has impacts on citizens as well as immigrants: the rights of natives and immigrants are extremely interlinked.

Written by Ulla-Kaisa Pihlaja

Migration of professional health workers

The speaker of the CEREN Research Seminar held on 9th of November was Professor Ivy Lynn Bourgeault from the Telfer School of Management and Institute of Population Health at the University of Ottawa. Bourgeault introduced her latest study which has been made in cooperation with Sirpa Wrede, Cecilia Benoit and Elena Neiterman. Their aim in the study was to create a logical and pluralistic framework to analyze the complex relation of migration and integration, with especially international professional health workers in their focus. Bourgeault herself has previously studied midwifery and worked with women’s experiences of care in remote communities in Canada.

Bourgeault underlines the twisted situation of Canada, in which most of the immigrant health workers (physicians, nurses and midwives) cannot practice their profession in their new home country. Only in the province of Ontario the number of non-practicing health professionals is more than 5000. In this light, it is possible to draw a conclusion that the integration process of these immigrants has not succeeded in a perfect manner. The fact that only 200 residency spots are available for 5000 residency applicants working in health sector, excludes a great number of highly skilled professionals. The example from Canada shows how migration can lead to brain waste. Besides the country of origin, also the destination country may lose the expertise and skills of the professional migrants. Therefore, the message delivered by Bourgeault is that a coherent theoretical framework formulated from the existing literature should be created in order to investigate these circumstances. The majority of scholars studying health professions approach the topic from the perspective of the nation state, despite the fact that the transnational characteristics of the phenomenon are emphasized in today’s globalized world.

The health workers have migrated in all times, but like Bourgeault states, this phenomenon has currently got some new features. Examples of these new landscapes of recent health professional migration are the growing number of migrants, the accelerating pace and the role of transit countries. Migrants do not necessarily settle in their first destination country, which raises the question of integration and who invests in it. Furthermore, we should remember that the health sector differs from many other branches involved in transnational migration. The health sector is mainly regulated on national level, and it is not run by transnational companies. The health care systems are funded by public sources, instead of private ones. In addition, gender (in connection to other intersections) should be taken into account, when studying the new patterns of health work migration. As migration was previously perceived to be an economic opportunity for men mainly, nowadays women are more and more encouraged to migrate. The decrease of traditional male manufacturing jobs, and on the contrary the growing need for care workers in Western countries has caused women to migrate sometimes even instead of men. When emigrating, women also tend to leave a care deficit in their home countries. Bourgeault reminds, moreover, that settlement does not equal with integration. Considering that in health work the cultural competence plays a crucial role, the integration of immigrant health professionals needs special attention also in academic literature. Not only being left without a license to practice their profession, immigrant health workers also tend to be discriminated and excluded in their work places.

Like already mentioned, the research of Bourgeault and her collaborators intends to formulate a functioning theoretical framework on the relation of migration and integration of the health workers. This was made to follow the micro, macro and meso level divide. In practice, this means distinguishing individual and family experiences and motivations from national and institutional, and global theorizations. It must be noted, nonetheless, that it is impossible to frame an all-fitting theory. According to Bourgeault, the literature on migration and integration is endless in number, but to a great extent disconnected. Macro research approaches health-related issues and also the migration of health workers from the perspective of public health. It also dealt with ethical matters, for instance regarding the legacies of colonialism and the current impacts of, for example, the EU on the migration flows. The most remarkable and clear findings coming from the meso level described the linkage of integration and migration by stressing if the migrants worked in the health sector before and after moving to another country. Through this literature overview, it is feasible to spot usable concepts and to find new ways of using them.

Written by Ulla-Kaisa Pihlaja

Insights to Current Trends of the Immigration in the U.S.

The latest CEREN research seminar was held by Professor Peter Kivisto on 14th of October. The topic concerned the current immigration situation and its historical roots in the U.S. Currently Kivisto is engaged as the Richard A. Swanson Professor of Social Thought at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois and as a Research Fellow at the University of Trento.

5361744ea1057 imageThe United States have always been a country of immigrants, and it still is today. It has received 59 million migrants since 1965, when the Hart-Celler Act opened the country’s immigration legislation and policy. However, according to Kivisto, there are new tendencies emerging in American immigration. For example, the education level of immigrants has risen, although the poverty level has not changed. In other words, the immigrants in the U.S. are better educated, but still as poor as before the 1990s. Immigrants have also settled in all states rather than concentrating in certain areas. Furthermore, recent immigration has influenced the overall ethnic composition of the country, as especially the number of Hispanics and Asian-origin immigrants has risen rapidly since 1965. At this point in time, there are also about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

During his presentation Kivisto offers the European audience an introduction to the American immigration history in order to understand the current situation. He starts from the Great wave of migration (1880s – 1920s), when urbanization and industrialization in Europe drove millions of migrants to the United States. After this era, migration decreased remarkably due to legislation changes. These policies continued until 1965, when the Hart-Celler Act took place. The legislation from the 1920s was relatively discriminatory as it prioritized white, Anglo-Saxon protestant immigrants and set quotas for other groups. Despite this, the post-World War economy required labour force especially in the agricultural sector in the South, and the Mexicans appeared to fill this labour demand. The U.S. government had a contract with the Mexican government (and some other governments in the Caribbean) regarding these circular migrants, who were allowed to come to work in the U.S. temporarily. When the demand for agrarian labour force decreased, the migrants returned to Mexico. During those years the population pressure in Mexico was extreme, and many families relied on the opportunity of seasonal migration.

Due to the discriminatory nature of the pre-1965 policy, one of the aims of the Hart-Celler Act was to take a more open stance towards immigrants from different backgrounds. The Act also promoted the goals of the Cold War politics of the U.S. government as it strengthened its image as a tolerate country. However, the Hart-Celler reform had some consequences that were not anticipated by the decision makers. As quotas were removed and family reunification was encouraged, this led to the increasing share of non-European immigrants. The slow bureaucracy had a large impact on the government’s flexibility to react the short-term fluctuations of the labour market. The legal status of circular migrants changed from legal to illegal, but this did not remove the phenomenon and the need for agrarian workers in the Southern fields.

According to Kivisto, the present securitization of the U.S.-Mexico border has resulted in the fact that the circular migrants cannot return back to their home country, when the demand for work force on the north side of the border decreases. Simply they cannot be sure that they are able to cross the border again and come back, so they stay in the U.S. However, the Mexican population pressure has relieved since 1965 as the number of children has declined.

When presenting some general information on current American immigration, Kivisto notes that the majority of Americans claim that today’s immigration system does not work, and something needs to be done to improve it. This so-called ‘immigration system’ of today is based on the Hart-Celler Act. One of the key messages of the seminar was that the attitudes towards immigration divide the Americans, and that this division is often reflected in people’s political views. To be more exact, the Democrats generally hold more positive opinions regarding immigration compared to the Republicans. However, within both parties differing views are constantly compromised to form the official opinion of the party. The divided atmosphere shows especially in attitudes concerning undocumented immigrants: states and cities have very different policies when it comes to the illegal immigrant population and for example their opportunities to work. Ultimately, Kivisto states his concern about the fact that the mass media does not inform the broad public about the details and background factors of immigration.

Written by Ulla-Kaisa Pihlaja

Annual ERI kick-off event

The annual ERI kick-off event took place on 22nd of September at the Swedish School of Social Science. This year ERI celeIMG_9580brated its new profile with a new major subject, Social and Cultural Anthropology. Representatives from the other major subjects, Social Psychology and Sociology, were also present to introduce themselves to both old and new ERI students. The disciplines were represented by Karmela Liebkind from Social Psychology, Sarah Green from Social and Cultural Anthropology and Aino Sinnemäki from Sociology. Sirpa Wrede, Professor of Ethnic Relations, participated in the event also as a representative of Sociology. Throughout the disciplinary presentations the speakers underlined the importance and usefulness of the multidisciplinary character of the ERI studies. It is valuable to understand both during the studies and later in work life how issues can be approached from different perspectives. It is challenging to attend courses from another discipline than your own, but students should remember that they are not expected to become a specialist in them. Let yourself be inspired and challenged by different disciplinary approaches while becoming an expert in your own major! Afterwards students and staff were offered a chance to mingle over a gIMG_9589lass of wine.

Written by Ulla-Kaisa Pihlaja

Is there life after graduation?

Five international Master’s Degree Programmes from the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki jointly organized an event titled ‘Is there life after graduation?’ The event was targeted at both current students and alumni, and the aim was to discuss career prospects after graduation. The event was held at Think Corner at Aleksanterinkatu on the 17th of September.

The event offered students a great chance to get tips for job-hunting and to hear about the career developments of the similar-field graduates. The happening started with a panel discussion, where four alumni speakers told about their careers and shared the secrets of their success in theIMG_9463 labour market. The panel speakers represented both academia, the private sector and NGOs. Afterwards, the students had the chance to ask questions and mingle with the alumni. Altogether more than 50 students and alumni took part in the event. The participants of the panel were Meg Sakilayan-Latvala (ERI), Daria Krivonos (REMS), Jan Westö (MES), Chris Denholm (MGC) and Carlos Mendoza (ICE). John Hills, a current ICE student, was the moderator of the discussion.

All alumni highlighted right from the beginning the importance of networking in getting a job. It was mentioned that social scientists need to change their mindset regarding possible employments as there are no guaranteed jobs for master’s degree graduates. According to Jan Westö, this means in practice being open-minded instead of picky. It was added that it is necessary to “go out from your comfort zone” and bravely sell your specific skills to the potential employers. Carlos Mendoza suggests everyone to think from the perspective of the employer: how can I as a possible employee contribute to the company or organization? What do I have to offer that others don’t? Daria Krivonos, who at the moment works with her PhD research, also recommends networking for those who are planning the academic career. It is crucial to know the hot research topics and other researchers in your own field.

When asked about the special skills and advantages of the social scientists in the labour market, all panelists agreed that the analytical skills are something that they have to offer. They are able to independently observe and criticize also topics that are not their particular expertise. Finnish language requirements, moreover, raised a lot of questions among the international audience, and the message of the panelists was clear. Meg Sakilayan-Latvala’s work requires spoken and written skills in Finnish and according to her, it is important to show interest in learning the language. In the beginning the language skills do not necessarily have to be so good, but at least you should not be passive about it. Chris Denholm also reminds that being a non-native Finnish speaker should be taken as an advantage in all possible cases. Sell your native-language skills!

The audience was also interested in internships and their importance, so the alumni gave tips for searching for a proper place. The panelists underlined the importance of (besides networking) knowing the organization or company of the possible internship or work place. By making research beforehand and going to the events the applicant can make a good impression. HowevIMG_9519er, it was stated that the employer will notice if the applicant lies or exaggerates about his/her skills or do not put enough effort into the application. In the end, the alumni panelists encouraged the students to think about the possible work “outside of the box” as there are more doors open than you never thought would be there for you.

Written by Ulla-Kaisa Pihlaja

Niko Pyrhönen defended his doctoral dissertation

CEREN affiliated researcher Niko Pyrhönen defended his doctoral dissertation on Friday 16 October. The topic for his dissertation is The True Colors of Finnish Welfare Nationalism – Consolidation of Neo-Populist Advocacy as a Resonant Collective Identity through Mobilization of Exclusionary Narratives of Blue-and-White Solidarity.


Professor Peter Kivisto from Augustana College served as the opponent and Professor Matti Kortteinen acted as the custos.