Organisations play an important role in the promotion of immigrant integration, from tasks related to early-stage housing arrangements to language clubs and various leisure activities. The activities are partially on a voluntary basis, but many organisations also employ experienced professionals. The tasks of the organisations in the promotion of integration and reception of refugees can already be initiated before the individual in question arrives in the municipality. The work can be based on the active efforts of local residents or take place within the framework of joint planning.
Organisations do not need to specialise in refugee work or to become special experts in immigrant integration. It is enough for the organisations to invite immigrants to participate in their core activities.
Organisations can organise furniture collections and provide help in different challenges arising from everyday life and the new living environment. Organisations arrange low-threshold activities supporting integration in such areas as improving proficiency in Finnish and in enhancing social networks or working life skills. The activities can be in the form of language clubs and courses, meeting places, hobbies, homework clubs, mentoring, counselling, peer activities or support person activities. The activities are carried out both face-to-face and online. Telephone hotlines maintained by organisations also provide advice and assistance in crisis situations in different languages.
Organisations offer support in immigrants’ own languages and enhance inclusion
Many of the organisational activities are on a voluntary basis, but large organisations also have employees with strong professional competence in immigration work. Organisations employ a large number of people who possess experience-based knowledge of integration and organise culturally sensitive activities for immigrants in their own languages. People coming from similar cultural backgrounds are also able to handle difficult issues sensitively and explain them in an understandable manner, which will reduce the risk of misunderstandings. The need for support and information in one’s own language is particularly important during the early stages of integration.
Organisations also provide immigrants with opportunities for inclusion and membership in the community. This helps immigrants to learn useful skills making it easier for them to live in the new environment. By taking part in the activities, immigrants can get friends, join networks and become members of communities. Organisational activities can offer meaningful doing that makes participants feel good and strengthens their self-esteem. Immigrants can also join organisations with a view to become activists and volunteers themselves. All this supports and empowers the individuals in the integration process.
Organisational activities encourage contacts between immigrants and the mainstream population. Organisations strengthen multi-directional integration and learning while bringing the mainstream population and immigrants together. Personal contacts offered as part of organisational activities may also have positive impacts on ethnic relations in the region.