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Migrant Integration Governance in Finland

Net migration has been positive in Finland since 1981. Most immigrants were then Finnish citizens returning from Sweden but the number of international immigrants started increasing in the early 1990s. They mainly came from Russia. This is due to the geographical proximity between the 2 countries and their common history. A large share of these Russian immigrants were also descendants of Ingrian Finns, who moved to Russia in the 17th century.


Foreign population in FinlandOn 1 January 2017, 146 000 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were living in Finland. They represented 2,5 % of the total population, according to Eurostat.

Most were Russians and Iraqis. Additional data from the Finnish immigration service reveal that in 2016, out of 53 114 permits issued, 33% were for family reunification, 24% for work and 24% studies.



Besides to the foreign population, there are around 120 000  Finnish citizens with third country background. 8 183 were naturalised in 2016.

Integration Strategy

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of these populations, Finland has an Government Integration Programme for 2016-2019. The strategic document highlights 4 focus areas. Its main thematic priorities include using immigrants’ cultural strengths to enhance Finnish innovation capacity; improving their participation in higher education, labour market and leisure activities; and fighting against racism. It also clarifies the role of municipalities.

The previous and first strategy covered the period 2012-2015. Its 63 measures had as general objectives to support immigrants’ participation in the Finnish society and a positive interaction between all population groups. Specific emphasis was laid on promoting employment and supporting immigrant children, youngsters, families and women through basic services.

Integration Programme

The 2016-2019 strategic Integration Programme requires local integration services to set up individual integration plans for newcomers. Participation to the Plan is mandatory and includes:

☑  language course

☑  civic education

☑  vocational training


Municipalities evaluate these individual integration plans, but no data is made public. Likewise, consulting firm Ramboll Finland drafted a monitoring report of the first strategic Integration Programme for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s internal use. The second Programme has so far not been evaluated, neither by governmental institutions nor by non-profit organisations.

However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s yearly reports on immigrants’ participation in the labour market and on ethnic relations are public. They are based on predefined indicators such as employment, education and training, health and well-being, housing, participation, two-way integration. They revealed for example that integration plan had a positive impact on immigrant’s children and that salary subsidies had a positive influence on migrant employment. This ongoing monitoring results in a comprehensive review of integration in Finland after each government term. The next overview will be drafted in 2019.

Recently, the OECD and the Finnish Institute for Economic research have also evaluated the integration of immigrant into the Finnish labour market.


☑   Foreigners Law

The first Act came into effect in 1984 and the current Finnish Aliens Act is applicable since 2004. It includes provisions about both immigrants and beneficiaries of international protection (Chapter 6). The latest amendments were made in 2017.

☑   Asylum Law

There is no separate asylum legislation in Finland. However, an Act on Reception Points and Centres for Asylum Seekers was issued in December 1991 to respond to the increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland. It was repealed by the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers in 1999.

In addition, the Act on the reception of persons seeking international protection and recognition of victims of trafficking secures the subsistence of persons seeking international protection and receiving temporary protection and lays down provisions on the identification of and help to victims of human trafficking, on the basis of EU legislation and international agreements.

☑   Integration Law

The current Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration dates back to 2010. It mainly focuses on promoting immigrants’ active role in the Finnish society, non-discrimination and positive interaction between different migrant groups. Previously, the 1999 Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers promoted the integration and freedom of choice of immigrants through measures helping them acquire essential knowledge and skills to function in the Finnish society.

☑   Nationality Law

The first Finnish Nationality Act took effect in 1920. The subsequent acts are from 1941 and 1968. The current Nationality Act took effect in 2003. One of its key objectives is to promote the social integration of foreign nationals permanently living in Finland. It therefore made the acquisition of Finnish citizenship more flexible. The latest amendments took effect in 2017.

☑   Anti-discrimination

The current Finnish Non-discrimination Act first took effect in 2014, 10 years after the original Act. It aims at promoting equality and preventing discrimination, as well as at enhancing the protection provided by law to those who have been discriminated against. It provides that “No one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political views, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.”

Public authorities

On the one hand, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is in charge of the general development, planning and guidance of the immigrant integration policy. It also collaborates with the Ministries of Interior, Education and Culture, Social Affairs and Health, as well as bureaus such as the Finnish National Agency for Education on intersectional issues. It proposes legislation and steers activities of the 15 regional Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The Ministry is also responsible for the overall coordination of integration activities, project evaluations, and monitoring of good ethnic relations. It further represents Finland at the European Integration Network.

Municipalities on the other hand are in charge of implementing integration policies, in collaboration with Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Services). They also make their own integration programmes as well as integration plans for individual immigrants, within the framework provided by the Integration Act.

Civil society

Finland does not have a consultative body dedicated to integration. However, the Centre of Expertise in Integration of Immigrants, which is part of the Immigrant Integration Unit in the Ministry of Employment and Economy, supports practitioners working in the field of migrant integration locally, regionally, and nationally. It helps them develop their professional skills, strengthen networks and define processes. It also develops integration indicators to improve the knowledge of integration in Finland.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated by the Ministry of Interior, the national allocation for Finland under AMIF is € 26 000 000 €. Nearly 1/3 of this amount (8,7 million euros) is dedicated to integration. The national integration priorities described in the Finnish AMIF programme reflect the Integration Policy and aim to improve interactions between migrants and the host society. The measures are also aimed at improving municipal reception capacity and integration services.

In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

Public funding Private funding




Other stakeholders

☑  Providing integration services

  • Trade unions
  • private companies
  • educational institutions.

☑  Implementing Integration Programme

☑  Campaigning

  • NGOs

☑  Publishing statistics