Päivi Nerg congratulated the new citizens of Finland and reminded attendees that gaining citizenship is not easy, requiring several years of living in Finland, the ability to earn a living and the passing of a Finnish language exam. Nerg hopes that the new citizens take pride in being Finnish, and characterised "Finnishness" as a feeling of togetherness shared by the people of Finland. Despite the recent changes in the country's social and political climate, Finland remains one of the safest countries in Europe, and together we must put an end to hate speech and racism.
Seppo Lehtinen, Chair of the City Council, presented the awards for the New Citizen of Turku, Berhan Ahmad, and the Multicultural Acts – the church's bold and visible efforts last autumn when the number of asylum seekers soared, and the everyday multiculturalism of Turku Market Hall. In addition to this, the celebration honoured Ismo Söderling for his long career in the management of the immigration institute, a position from which he retired last year.
In his speech, Turku City Council member Muhis Azizi, who received the New Citizen of Turku award in 2014, shared the story of how he became a Finnish citizen. Having spent his childhood living stateless in a refugee camp, Finland offered Muhis both asylum and citizenship – a real lottery win.
The celebration also included performances by the Namikatse sextet and the Åbolly Dancers. The event was hosted by Maisa Niemi and Lauri Ryyppö, who are this year’s ‘Turun Flikka’ (Turku Girl) and ‘Turun Poika’ (Turku Boy).
The celebration was a joint event between the municipalities in the Turku region for congratulating the more than 400 residents of Kaarina, Lieto, Masku, Mynämäki, Naantali, Nousiainen, Raisio and Turku who received Finnish citizenship last year.