Immigrants in Southwest Finland

At the end of 2019, there were 479,341 inhabitants in Southwest Finland, 35,809 or 7.5% of whom were foreign language speakers. Roughly 8.7% of all foreign language speakers in Finland live in Southwest Finland. In Southwest Finland, immigration has focused on the City of Turku, the Turku region and Salo. At the end of 2019, 22,826 out of the 192,962 residents of the City of Turku were foreign language speakers; that is 11.8% of all residents of Turku. Salo had a total of 51,833 residents, 3,197 or 6.2% of whom were foreign language speakers. In recent years, immigration has also increased in Vakka-Suomi, where many new jobs have been created.  (Source: Statistics Finland.)                     

Immigration to Southwest Finland has increased at a fairly steady rate since the 1990s. The peak year was 2014, when 2,048 persons with a foreign background moved to Southwest Finland. After that, fewer than 2,000 people per year have moved there. (Source: Statistics Finland, Integration database)

More than 120 languages are spoken in Southwest Finland. In addition to the domestic languages, the largest language groups in 2019 were:

  • Russian (5,170)
  • Estonian (4,047)
  • Arabic (3,384)
  • Kurdish (2,673)
  • Albanian (2,198)
  • Somali (1,741)
  • English (1,461)
  • Persian/Farsi (1,247)
  • Ukrainian (1,011)
  • Romanian (963)
  • Polish (962)

Source: Statistics Finland

The age structure of the foreign language speakers is younger than the population speaking Finnish, Swedish or Sami, and most of them are men. The largest age group of foreign language speakers are the 30–34-year-olds. 

People move to Southwest Finland for many different reasons

People move to Southwest Finland from abroad due to family, work and studies and for humanitarian reasons. The region has major international employers; the largest are the shipyard in Turku and the car factory in Uusikaupunki, which also employ people from abroad. There is plenty of seasonal agricultural work available in Southwest Finland, which draws in labour from abroad. The two universities and the two universities of applied sciences in the region also offer training programmes in English that attract foreign students.

A reception centre maintained by the Finnish Red Cross has been located in Turku since 1990, as well as a group home for underage asylum seekers arriving without a guardian since 2005. In 2015, new reception centres and emergency housing units were established to house asylum seekers. Out of these new units, only the Salo reception centre still remains in July 2020. The oldest family group home in Finland is also located in Turku; minors who have entered the country without a guardian and been granted asylum live there. The family group home is maintained by the Turku Mother and Child Home Association.  Most of the municipalities in the region have an agreement with the ELY Centre on receiving refugees, but refugees have only moved into a few municipalities in the Turku region, in Salo, Loimaa and Vakka-Suomi. In recent years, Parainen and Kemiönsaari have received quota refugees.

Active integration 

In Southwest Finland and especially in Turku, different organisations arrange a wide variety of activities promoting integration. There are dozens of multicultural and immigrant associations; a few examples of them can be found below. SONDIP – the Union of Multicultural Associations in South-West Finland supports the activities of other organisations. The Yhdessä-yhdistys ry association maintains a meeting place that promotes intercultural encounters in the Varissuo neighbourhood, and the DaisyLadies ry association for immigrant women supports the integration of women in particular. The SateenkaariKoto ry association has learning and meeting places in Turku and Kaarina, where stay-at-home mothers can learn Finnish. Globaalinuoret ry supports young people with an immigrant background with integration and their studies. In addition, the Southwest Finland district of the Finnish Red Cross has already been doing multicultural work in the area for a long time, and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare supports the integration of mothers and families with children in particular.

In addition to basic integration services and integration training, there are several projects managed by different organisations in Southwest Finland for promoting the integration and employment of immigrants. In early 2019, a centre of competence for immigrants called the Maahanmuuttajien Osaamispiste was established in Turku. In that centre, immigrants living in Turku can find support for job seeking, studies and learning Finnish. The Infotori of the City of Turku is a low-threshold info point, and it offers guidance and counselling in 12 different languages. The City of Turku also has a Multicultural Council; among other things, it promotes and monitors integration, participates in designing the city’s services, and strengthens multicultural competence. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations in Western Finland is tasked with promoting good ethnic relations in Southwest Finland and Satakunta. The parties doing integration work in the region cooperate a great deal in order to promote integration via different networks and campaigns.