Thursday, 5 December 2013

Integration of migrants in Europe: A Finnish example

There is a growing number of migrants in most European countries. Politicians and local officials are trying to integrate them, although it does not always seem to be easy. Here is one example which shows how "integration" should not be done:

Patrons of the Rantakylä swimming hall in Joensuu, northeast Finland are perplexed by the rules pertaining to special ladies-only swimming sessions. A local mother recently tried to take her three-year old son to the session but they were turned away and told that only women were allowed.

"It's related to migrant integration and has received a positive reception. About 50 – 70 customers attend the sessions every week, and that's about half of our total visitor numbers," explained Pentti Ryhänen, Joensuu city facility manager.

However the popular swimming session has also caused some bewilderment. Some believe that the city should not segregate swimming times based on gender. One local mother was taken aback by the strict enforcement of the segregation rule when she tried to take her toddler son to the swimming class.
"I thought it would not be a problem because he's such a small boy. However when we got to the ticket kiosk they asked whether the child was a boy or a girl and they turned us away. Naturally I was upset," the mother said.

Facility manager Pentti Ryhänen said however that there has been little negative feedback over the single-sex swimming session. He noted that that it should be clear that boys are not allowed, even if they are very young.
"Parents are free to attend other sessions with their sons," he pointed out.
Ryhänen said that immigrants have offered positive feedback about the ladies-only sessions to city authorities. They have also made proposals for developing the service.
"One proposal was that we should cover the windows of the swimming hall during these sessions so that no one can see inside. But we won't be doing that," he added.

Let's hope the windows in the Joensuu swimming hall will stay uncovered!

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