Immigrants in Eastern Finland

Eastern Finland consists of three regions: North Savo, South Savo and North Karelia. There are differences between the region’s municipalities regarding the proportions of foreign-language speaking population: in Rautavaara (North Savo), for example, the proportion is 1.1% (2017). The highest proportion of foreign-language speakers is found in Tohmajärvi in North Karelia, or 4.7% (2017). This figure is 4.7% in Joensuu, 4.5% in Kitee and 3.4% in Lieksa. The proportions of foreign-language speakers are less than 4% in Kuopio (3.8%) and Mikkeli (3.8%).

There are 17,777 foreign-language speakers (3.19%) living in Eastern Finland (source: Statistics Finland, 31 December 2017). Major differences are found within the region of Eastern Finland: there are citizens of a hundred different countries and over 80 language groups.

Distances are long in Eastern Finland, which often poses challenges to such activities as the organisation of and participation in education. Finding employment is also difficult, as it often involves moving. These are also reasons that cause immigrants to leave Eastern Finland for other regions. In Eastern Finland as in other parts of Finland, the unemployment rate among immigrants is about two or three times higher than the mainstream population's rate.

More than 80 language groups in Eastern Finland

As a consequence of Eastern Finland's location close to the Russian border, Russian-speaking immigrants are one of the largest customer groups of the integration services in all three regions.

Citizens of a hundred different countries and over 80 different linguistic groups are found in Eastern Finland.

Different pull factors have brought immigrants to the region, family reasons being the most common one. Foreigners also come to Eastern Finland to study: a number of international students and researchers are found in Kuopio, Joensuu and Mikkeli, in particular. The students at the University of Eastern Finland represent almost one hundred different countries.

All areas and sectors in Eastern Finland have seen work-based immigration. Common sectors include agriculture, in particular, as well as seasonal berry and mushroom picking.

All Eastern Finland regions receive quota refugees

Eastern Finland has also experience of immigration for humanitarian reasons. All three regions in Eastern Finland have received quota refugees

from such countries as Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China.

Reception centres for asylum seekers and group homes for minor asylum seekers currently operate in different parts of Eastern Finland.

Third sector supports integration in Eastern Finland

Active third sector stakeholders offer diverse activities that promote (two-way) integration. They include the Finnish Red Cross, Kuopion Setlementti Puijola, Multicultural Centre Kompassi, Linnalan Setlementti, Joensuun Setlementti, Multicultural Center MIMOSA, Joensuun District Multicultural Association (JoMoni), Finnish Refugee Council in Eastern Finland, the Moni-JAKE project, the parishes and immigrants’ associations, including the Somali Family Association in Lieksa; Zonta Women; the Rural Women's Advisory Organisation; the Martha Organisation; sports clubs; and educational institutions. Additionally, active project work is carried out in many parts of Eastern Finland.

  • Read more about North Savo
  • Read more about South Savo
  • Read more about North Karelia

The content of the site was produced by Tanja Manner, the regional coordinator for North Savo, South Savo and North Karelia of the Good Path, a sub-project of the At Home in Finland project.

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At Home in Finland project