Successfully integrating immigrants from different backgrounds in Turku and into Finnish society requires language training, employment services as well as recreational activities.

Information events and online contents for immigrants

In response to the information needs of immigrants, the City of Turku will be holding a series of information events this autumn. The events are a collaborative effort between the City of Turku and the Finnish employment administration. 

The events are interpreted into various languages and intended for immigrants who have received a positive asylum decision, quota refugees and immigrants who have come to Finland as a result of family reunification. Since the summer, Turku has received approximately 250 such immigrants.

More information on the immigrant services of Turku can be found online. Information is also available in several major languages.

Integration means interactive development involving immigrants and society at large, the aim of which is to provide immigrants with the knowledge and skills required in Finnish society and working life. In addition to this, integration also refers to the active promotion and support of these efforts.

According to the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration, municipalities have overall and coordination responsibility for the development, planning and monitoring of integration services provided by all operators.

– Our aim is to ensure that the region's services function sensibly and work well together, summarises Development Manager Maarit Luukkaa from the City of Turku Central Administration, who is responsible for immigrant work.

Integration encompasses a wide range of activities and services, in large part due to the fact that immigrants are a heterogeneous group. The majority of the immigrants coming to Finland come here seeking employment, education or their families, in addition to which there are also asylum seekers coming to Finland, for example.

– There is no universal model for immigration. Much depends on what population group the person belongs to and whether they are involved in working life, says Immigration Coordinator Sari Kanervo from the City of Turku.

An integration plan provides a framework

Some of the most important cooperation partners involved in integration, as mentioned in the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration, are employment and economic development offices. After all, most adult immigrants who receive a positive asylum decision are initially customers of both municipal integration services and employment offices.

Immigrants who arrive in Finland as asylum seekers or as a result of family reunification are provided with a personal integration plan, which is prepared at a TE Office, at the city's Immigrant Office or collaboratively between the two.

Our aim is to ensure that the region's services function sensibly.

Maarit Luukkaa

According to Maarit Luukkaa, the aim of the integration plan is to ensure that the immigrant in question learns the skills necessary to function independently in society and utilise its possibilities. For many, language training is an integral part of the plan.

The Immigrant Office handles the health care and social services of asylum seekers with the help of interpreters. The personal needs of every asylum seeker are reviewed.

In addition to this, the Immigrant Office helps with school and early childhood education matters, which are obviously important for families with children, and organises activities for immigrants who are not involved in working life, such as pensioners and stay-at-home mothers.

The City's services are supplemented by associations

The City's Recreation Division offers services tailored for new residents, such as sports groups and introductions to the activities of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. The services organised by the Recreation Division are especially important for immigrant groups that have no other contact with the City's services, such as those that come to Finland seeking employment or education.

The services offered by the municipality are complemented by the third sector, meaning volunteer associations. They provide important support for people's personal lives.

Turku has an exceptionally wide and active range of associations.

– Turku has an exceptionally wide and active range of associations, Maarit Luukkaa is keen to emphasise.

Some of the City's most important third sector partners include Sondip ry, which serves as an umbrella organisation for associations established by immigrants, and the inter-cultural Together Association.

New projects in integration work

Last year's rise in the number of asylum seekers has also accelerated the development of integration work. As a result, a number of new integration projects are being launched in Turku.

As an example, Maarit Luukkaa mentions Humak University of Applied Sciences' Baana project, launched in September 2016, which provides concrete support to immigrants in finding employment. The City of Turku is also involved in the project as a cooperation partner.

Another similar project is the Better Services for Immigrants project, in which the City of Turku's Welfare Division collaborates with a various cooperation partners in order to seek means of responding to any mental health and substance abuse problems immigrants may have in a customer-oriented manner.

  • Future articles in the Turku Integrates series will provide more information on the role of employment services, education, daycare and association activities in integration work.

Text: Elina Teerijoki
Photo: Joonas Mäkivirta