Citizens would like to see a dispassionate atmosphere and more facts in the discourse on asylum seekers
Finns would like to be able to discuss asylum policy without the fear of being stigmatised; the discourse should be relevant and fact-based. The issues that were highlighted in the discourse on asylum policy were social polarisation, promotion of integration activities during the asylum seeking process and the impact of the asylum seeker situation on security.
These are the findings of an opinion survey conducted by the University of Vaasa and commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior.
An electronic survey as well as discussion events held in five locations formed the basis for this qualitative and quantitative research
The majority of respondents felt that the asylum seeker situation was to some extent a threat to internal security. The respondents were concerned about e.g. conflicts between different population groups.
The majority of respondents also felt that the authorities should see to it that those persons who were in Finland illegally are deported. The respondents to the citizens' survey were critical of the right of churches, ideological non-profits, or individual citizens to protect those in the country illegally.
At the same time, the respondents stated that they wanted to help those who really need it: the respondents wanted to invest a great deal more in development aid, crisis management and the quota refugee system.
The respondents also wanted to reduce the duration of the asylum process and improve the employment of those who had received residence permits.
The answers given by those who took part in the survey highlighted the need for direct communication by the authorities. At present, not all official information is readily available or people do not know how to utilise it. The respondents also felt that the media's perceived bias and the polarisation of public debate were problematic. Extreme opinions in one direction or the other have received a great deal more visibility than their relative share of the population would indicate.
The majority of the ideas established during the discussion events applied to preliminary integration i.e. the time spent by asylum seekers at reception centres. According to the respondents, this time should be spent in a meaningful way in activities such as language studies and improvement of working life skills as well as learning about daily life in Finnish society. The respondents felt that this would make it faster and easier for people to adapt to Finnish society and reduce frustration among asylum seekers during the asylum process.
The purpose of the opinion survey was to compile as comprehensive an image of Finns' views, experiences and opinions on the asylum seeker situation as possible as well as generate ideas for developing activities in the future. The respondents comprised 16-70 year old women and men from different parts of Finland.
Director of Strategic Steering and Development Harri Martikainen, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 (0)295 488 512, firstname.lastname@example.org
Researcher Alisa Puustinen, tel. +358 (0)299 530 445, email@example.com (research)
Docent Harri Raisio, tel. +358 (0)29 449 8405, firstname.lastname@example.org (research)