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Key concepts related to integration

Key concepts related to integration, the Integration Act and the reception of refugees are collected on this page. The concepts are partly based on the Integration Glossary published in 2021. The glossary is available in the Institutional Repository for the Government (In Finnish and in Swedish). The concepts are grouped by theme. 

Integration promotion and services

Initial assessment

An integration service by which a municipality or Employment and Economic Development Office, together with an immigrant, assesses the immigrant’s skills, integration objectives and preparedness. In the initial assessment, the authority determines what services the person needs to support their integration. The initial assessment is based on the Integration Act (sections 9–10).

Initial-stage services

Initial-stage services include basic information, advice and guidance, an initial assessment and an integration plan.

Integration

An individual process for an immigrant that takes place in interaction with society. The objective is for the immigrant to feel that they are an active and competent member of society and to acquire the knowledge and skills required in society and working life. While the immigrant becomes familiar with the linguistic and cultural environment of their new country of residence, their opportunities to maintain their own language and culture are also supported. Reciprocally, the receiving society picks up new influences and becomes more diverse.

The promotion of integration

Supporting integration by providing various services and promoting the receptiveness of society. Integration is frequently promoted through multi-sectoral cooperation between the authorities in different branches of administration and other parties, and various information, advice and guidance services are provided for this purpose.

Integration training

An integration service that includes Finnish or Swedish language teaching and other teaching that promotes access to working life or further education as well as other civic capabilities. If necessary, integration training can include teaching of reading and writing skills. Integration training is intended for immigrants who are above the age of compulsory education. Integration training is mainly organised as labour market training. 

Integration plan

An individual plan that is prepared to promote integration. The plan details the immigrant’s integration objectives, services and participation in services. The purpose of the integration plan is to promote the person’s possibilities of acquiring adequate Finnish or Swedish skills as well as the knowledge and skills needed in Finnish society and working life and to promote the person’s possibilities of participating in society as an equal member. 

The preparation of an integration plan is subject to a residence permit, the registration of the right of residence, a residence card or the registration of the population information and information on the municipality of residence. An integration plan can also be prepared for a minor or a family. The integration plan is based on the Integration Act (sections 20–21). 

Multi-sectoral cooperation

Cooperation between authorities in different branches of administration and other parties.

Guidance and advice

Instruction, guidance and advice provided by the municipality, the Employment and Economic Development Office and other authorities on measures and services that promote integration and working life. 

Basic services

Municipalities provide their residents with basic services that are governed by legislation. Examples of basic services include health care, social services, education and cultural services. Basic services are mainly provided by a person’s municipality of residence. 

Basic information

The Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration (2010/1386, section 7) requires that immigrants be provided with basic information about Finnish society. The “Welcome to Finland” guide is an information package in accordance with the Integration Act, covering topics such as rights, obligations, working life and living in Finland. The authorities provide information to customers in connection with the service of the decision on the residence permit, registration of the right of residence, issue of a residence card or the registration of the population information and information on the municipality of residence.

Right of residence

The right to stay in Finland for a purpose other than tourism or a similar short-term stay. The right of residence in Finland is governed by the Aliens Act (301/2004).

Legislation and programmes that guide integration

Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration (Integration Act)

The purpose of the Integration Act (1386/2010) is to support and promote integration and make it easier for immigrants to play an active role in Finnish society. Immigrants must be provided with integration services and other measures that support integration in accordance with the Act. The Act entered into force on 1 September 2011.

Municipal integration programme

Pursuant to the Integration Act, a municipality or more than one municipality jointly shall draw up an integration programme for promoting integration and multi-sectoral cooperation.

The programme is approved by the municipal council of each municipality and reviewed at least once every four years. The programme is taken into account in connection with the drawing up of the municipality’s budget and financial plan. 

Regional and local authorities take part in the drawing up, implementation and monitoring of the integration programme. Local immigrants’ organisations, non-governmental organisations, employees’ and employers’ organisations and religious communities may take part in the drawing up, implementation and monitoring of the integration programme.

Government Integration Programme

A programme approved by the Finnish Government that specifies the objectives and measures pertaining to the promotion of integration for the Government’s term of office.

Roles and groups

Representative

A person who has the right – in accordance with the operating models specified in the relevant legislation – to exercise the guardian’s right to be heard on behalf of an asylum seeker or immigrant who is a minor. 

A representative is appointed to an asylum seeker who is a minor, a child who has been issued with a residence permit in a refugee quota or a child who is granted temporary protection and is the victim of trafficking in human beings if the child is in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative. A representative can also be appointed to a child who has been issued with a residence permit under other circumstances and who is in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative.

Persons requiring special support

Immigrants who require special integration services due to an illness or disability, for example. The need for special support may also be related to reduced functional capacity, age, family situation, illiteracy or other similar reasons.
Beneficiary of international protection

A person who has been granted refugee status or a residence permit on the grounds of subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection. In Finland, refugee status is governed by the Aliens Act (301/2004). After the provision concerning humanitarian protection was removed from the Aliens Act in 2016, humanitarian protection is no longer granted to asylum seekers.

Quota refugee

A person deemed as a refugee by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to whom a Finnish residence permit has been granted within the refugee quota. Each year, the Finnish Parliament decides, in connection with the state budget proposal, the number of quota refugees Finland agrees to receive. 
Immigrant

A person born outside Finland who is not a Finnish citizen but resides in Finland and has been granted the right of residence. This term should only be used when it has descriptive value (in statistics, for example). This term should not be used to refer to a person who is presumed to be an immigrant due to their name, appearance or mother tongue, for instance. 

Refugee

A person who, in their country of citizenship or permanent residence, has justified reason to fear persecution because of their origin, religion, nationality, membership in a certain social group or political opinion. Refugee status is granted to a person to who asylum is granted by a state or who is considered to be a refugee by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Returnee

An immigrant who is granted the right of residence in Finland on the grounds of being a former Finnish citizen, the descendant of a Finnish citizen by birth or an Ingrian evacuee or having served in the Finnish army during the period 1939–1945.

Asylum seeker

A person who seeks asylum and the right to reside in a foreign nation. An asylum seeker is granted refugee status if they are granted asylum. 

Foreign citizen

A person who is the citizen of a country other than Finland. This concept is used in statistics, for example. However, in some contexts, its use may be othering or discriminatory.  

Foreign-language speaker

A person living in Finland who has registered a language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi as their mother tongue. This concept is used in statistics, for example. However, in some contexts, its use may be othering or discriminatory.  

Concepts related to equality, non-discrimination and multiculturalism

Anti-racism

Active and conscious action against all forms of racism. Anti-racist action reduces ethnic discrimination, the impacts of discriminatory practices and negative preconceptions.

Cultural sensitivity

The willingness and ability to understand people from different backgrounds as individuals and awareness of one’s own cultural background and preconceptions. Cultural sensitivity includes, for example, interpersonal skills, respectful verbal and non-verbal encounters and communications between a professional and a client. The aim is for each party to have the right to express their culture and be accepted and heard in that context.

Diversity

Refers to all of the traits and characteristics that differentiate people from each other in an organisation or society. Such differentiating factors include, for example, age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, marital status, sexual orientation, attitudes and values, personality and political and economic position.

Diversity competence

Thinking, action and practices that are based on respecting and valuing other people regardless of their background or position. The key is to have the ability to recognise another person’s needs, not only their general human needs but also any needs arising from the other person being culturally different or part of a minority. The general objective is to reduce inequality and improve the position of minorities.

Inclusion

The feeling and perception of belonging to a community that is meaningful to oneself and having the opportunity to influence one’s life and community. Inclusion is conditional on the person having access to adequate resources, the opportunity to make decisions about their life and maintain socially significant and important relationships.

Racism

Racism is a paradigm in which groups of people are judged to be inferior due to, for example, their ethnicity, skin colour, nationality, culture, mother tongue or religion. Racism often involves the idea of a certain group being superior and normative whiteness, which means that having white skin is seen as an assumption that defines the structures of society.  

Structural racism

Operating practices or other practices that directly or indirectly discriminate against certain groups of people in institutions or the structures of society.  Racism can manifest itself in working life, education, the housing market or services, for example. 

Good relations between population groups 

Relations between population groups based on positive attitudes, effective interaction, a sense of security and participation in society. 

Indirect discrimination

Discrimination where an apparently neutral rule, criterion or practice puts a person at a disadvantage compared with others. An example of indirect discrimination would be the employee of a social services office or health centre failing to give guidance to an immigrant, a person with a disability or an elderly person filling out an official form, in spite of the employee in question noticing that the client does not understand the content of the form. In this case, the client receives the same service as everyone else in spite of needing special guidance. 

Direct discrimination

A person being treated less favourably than another person in the same situation due to a personal characteristic. Discriminatory treatment refers to treatment that has an adverse impact on a person, such as not receiving a certain benefit, suffering financial loss or having reduced choices available to them. A person being excluded from the provision of services in their own language is an example of direct discrimination. 

Equality

All people are equal regardless of their gender, age, ethnic or national origin, citizenship, language, religion, belief, opinion, disability, state of health, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. In a fair society, personal characteristics such as origin or skin colour should not influence people’s opportunity to access education, find work and access various services.

Non-discrimination Act

The Non-discrimination Act (1325/2014) entered into force at the beginning of 2015 and its purpose is to promote equality and prevent discrimination as well as to enhance the protection provided by law to those who have been discriminated against.

Receptiveness of society

The degree to which equality, non-discrimination, inclusion and good relations between population groups are realised in society. From the perspective of the receptiveness of society, integration is a multilateral process that takes between individuals, communities and structures. The entire society changes when the population grows more diverse.

Promoting the receptiveness of society

Actions to develop society’s structures and interaction to improve the receptiveness of society. The receptiveness of society can be promoted by, for example, eliminating discriminatory structures, developing services and influencing people’s attitudes. 

More information:
The Finnish Immigration Service’s glossary
Integration glossary (Finnish, Swedish)