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Increased number of hate crimes alarming for society
Published : 06 Dec 2018, 12:02
A study report released by the Police University College on November 26 said the number of hate crimes reported to the police in 2017 was eight per cent higher than that in the previous year.
Although there are no laws on the books in Finland that specifically define hate crimes, we understand a hate crime is a crime motivated by the hate or prejudice felt by the perpetrator against a group of people. The motive may be the victim’s actual or presumed sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, skin colour or ancestry, ethnic or national origin, religion, conviction or disability.
According to the study, a total of 1,165 reports classified as suspected hate crimes were recorded last year.
Despite the annual rise in the number of reported hate crimes in 2017, it was still less than the level prevailing before 2016. The number of principal offences was 99 less than that in 2016. Principal offence refers to the most serious types of crime to which the injured party in each crime report was subjected to.
All in all, the number of hate crimes can be said to have stabilised, but after the 2015 wave of migration, it still remains above the long-term average.
As in the previous years, the majority of the hate crime reports in 2017 included features related to ethnic or national background, and assault was the most common type of crime.
Last year, the police recorded 813 suspected hate crimes based on ethnic or national background, 18 less than that in 2016.
If this trend of increasing incidents of hate crimes continues, it will put a negative impact on the society, particularly the integration of the immigrants.
The concern intensified further as at the same time, members of a group of far-right organisation, the Soldiers Of Odin, were seen patrolling at East Helsinki’s Puhos shopping centre on November 26.
Soldiers Of Odin was founded in Kemi in 2015 by neo-Nazi Mika Ranta, and began carrying out what it describes as ‘street patrols’ in the same year.
According to news reports, the shopping centre where the Soldiers Of Odin were seen is in an area with a large immigrant population.
A city council member of the main opposition Suomensosialidemokraattinenpuolue (SDP) told the national broadcaster Yle that the far-right group people were provoking people with verbal abuse and hand gestures.
About 70 per cent of the active members of SuomenVastarintaliike (Finnish Resistance Movement), the Finnish chapter of the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL), and the Soldiers of Odin have criminal backgrounds including violent crimes, said a recent study commissioned by the national broadcaster Yle.
We think such behaviour of the anti-immigrant racist group will create panic among the immigrants, in addition to encouraging hate crimes. The authorities, particularly the police should take the matter seriously with zero tolerance. Encouraging such forces will not only create anarchism, but also will tarnish the image of the peaceful Finnish characteristics.
The police admitted the incident and told the Yle News that they received two calls about the far-right group on Monday night and rushed to the spot.
The on duty police official also admitted that no action was taken against them as they told police that they were just walking and sightseeing, said the Yle report.
The far-right gathering came on the same day as the City of Helsinki published data showing that eastern Helsinki has the city’s highest number of residents with a foreign background.
Despite the above frustrating situation, there is a good initiative taken by the government on November 27 to take intensified actions against hate speech and online bullying.
Three ministries – the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Education and Culture – have jointly established a project in this regard. A working group has been formed to prepare proposals for more efficiently preventing hate speech punishable under the Criminal Code and harassment prohibited by law for promoting a discussion culture that takes other people into consideration.
We hope the working committee will recommend a set of very specific proposals which will be able to check any kind of hate crime through legal way. The new law should also prohibit the racist activities by any neo-Nazi groups such as Soldiers Of Odin or SuomenVastarintaliike (Finnish Resistance Movement), or Suomi Ensin.
To read the Finnish version Click Lapin Kansa.