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Study: Diversity among the Iraqi refugees coming to Finland

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 30.8.2016 10.00
Press release

The Iraqis living in Finland are a group with many voices when it comes to politics, ethnicity and religion, with multiple and mutually challenging interpretations of their home country, culture and reasons behind the conflicts. These divisions also impact on the lives of Iraqi people living in Finland as persons belonging to different groups meet in their daily lives, for example, as neighbours.

This is shown in the study on the backgrounds and current situation of Iraqi refugees published on 30 August 2016. The Centre of Expertise in Immigrant Integration of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment commissioned the study from Marko Juntunen, Social Anthropologist specialised in Arabic and Islamic studies. The report also serves the integration experts who meet Iraqi people in their work.

Diversity impacts on adaptation to Finland

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime Iraq was divided into ethnic, tribal and religious groups that were fighting with each other. A serious security vacuum was created, and soon the policy associated with religion and ethnicity led to violence and extensive population transfers. After the occupation Iraq has suffered from a cycle of violence which became even bloodier after Isis occupied wide areas in the north-east parts of Iraq in 2014.

The study shows that because of the conflicting and violent history of the country it is difficult for the Iraqi to set up organisations in Finland that would bring together all the different groups. One of the main lines of division is religion and the weight each group gives on it. Part of the Iraqi people in Finland are in favour of religion-based identities, while some are against them. Some try to avoid getting involved as they perceive telling about their own views as too risky 

Refugees steered by social media

In 2015 almost 32 500 asylum seekers in search for international protection came to Finland, more than 60% of them from Iraq. According to the study, the Iraqis came to Finland because of its reputation as a safe society that respects human rights.

In the report Juntunen also describes the new phenomenon in communication where the movement of refugees was steered by social media. Via Facebook, for example, information, guidance and advice was posted to those who had stayed in Iraq about the routes and risks associated with them.

The study was based on interviews and ethnographic observations, and it examined the reasons for leaving Iraq and becoming a refugee, travel routes and integration. The report can be accessed on the website of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment at www.tem.fi/julkaisut (in Finnish).

Marko Juntunen, Researcher, University of Tampere, tel. +358 50 3186 103
Tarja Rantala, Project Manager, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 504 7101

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