Active involvement of immigrants promotes integration

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Monikulttuurien yhteiskunta -event (multicultural society) closed the seminar series “Tutkittua tietoa maahanmuutosta” (researched data on immigration), organised by the Strategic Research Council. In the event on 23th of April the addresses of academics, experts and immigrants were heard.  Also, SWiPE took part in the event. SWiPE researcher Satu Aaltonen from the University of Turku participated in the panel discussion on how to make a multicultural society work. The introducer of the discussion on multiculturalism was Bahar Mozaffari, the Refugee Woman of the Year.

The keynote speaker of the event, Professor Paul Scheffer of the University of Tillburg, questioned even the whole concept of multiculturalism in his speech. According to him, a whole new culture should emerge from the encounters of different cultures. This, he said, involves abandoning, rejecting, and even conflict, which he considered to be a natural part of the integration process. Scheffer underlined the active involvement of immigrants in integration.

Also Bahar Mozaffari emphasized the active role of immigrants and said immigrants themselves have a responsibility to integrate. In her speech, Mozaffari raised the status of immigrant women and why they often fall outside the labour market. In particular, she raised the conflicting identity expectations of different cultures.

Satu Aaltonen told about the activities of Opetuskoti Mustikka, an educational home working in Turku. In Mustikka, the transition to the labour market for women is supported, among other things, by providing childcare assistance. In her opinion, this is not just an identity, but a removal of concrete obstacles. She emphasized the importance of small steps in the transition of immigrant women.

Also the services for immigrants were discussed. Satu Aaltonen stressed that differentiated services, especially for immigrant entrepreneurs, could create otherness and could be perceived as discriminatory. This idea was widely supported by the panel’s discussants, although in some situations differentiated services can bridge the gap between the natives and immigrants, and accelerate integration.