Finnish children are targeted online by immigrant groomers. Photo credit: Tania Malréchauffé

Finland: Immigrants overrepresented in sex crimes

Coming on the heels of a Swedish study, a government report from Finland revealed that especially immigrants were prone to commit sexual offences.

Published: October 1, 2021, 11:51 am

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    Commissioned by the Sanna Marin administration, the recent 148-page study done by the Finnish Youth Research Network and the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (Krimo) examined the risks related to the background of sex offenders and underlying reasons for sexual offences.

    The researchers tried to minimize the ethnicity and culture of foreigners, stating that no single factor could account for the prevalence of sexual crime since perpetrators were often “bad at solving problems, impulsive, had issues with regulating emotions, and poor self-esteem”.

    In 2020, almost 38 percent of rape suspects in Finland were foreign-born, while they only represent 7 percent of the Finnish population in a country of 5,5 million inhabitants.

    But the fact remains that non-Western immigrants are overrepresented in child sexual abuse cases and the number of these suspects has risen even more dramatically in recent years, reaching 24 percent in 2019.

    From 2011 to 2020, 27 percent of all rape suspects were foreign-born and those suspected of child sexual abuse was 15 percent. Young male immigrants were more prone to the sexual exploitation of children, while such minors represented a significant group of perpetrators.

    The study also emphasised that social disadvantage alone could not explain the overrepresentation of immigrants, but cited “mental illness”, the use of intoxicants, antisocial behaviour, and a criminal past as contributing risk factors.

    “To be able to prevent sexual crimes effectively, we need to understand the risk factors and behavioural patterns associated with those who commit the crimes”, researcher Teemu Vauhkonen of the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy concluded in a statement.

    The problem had been identified in 2019

    In 2019, measures to address criminal offenses by immigrants when granting residence permits were allegedly strengthened. The government announced legislative amendments by which the status of international protection could be terminated for persons who have committed an aggravated offense in Finland.

    Schools programmes were moreover aimed at helping children to recognize grooming behavior and safe social media use. Measures to prevent sexual offenses also included providing more resources to internet police, more severe punishments for sexual offenses and increased cooperation among the public authorities and preventive police work, but these seem to have had little success.

    Online grooming was still a huge problem in Finland, a survey by the Save the Children charity found in April this year. Perpetrators frequently offer money, cigarettes, and alcohol in return for explicit images or physical meetings. Involving children under the age of 16 in sex is illegal in Finland.

    In a study which featured 499 schools nationwide, almost 9 in 10 Finnish 11 to 17-year-olds have been subjected to grooming at least once.  Some 80 percent of children have received explicit images from an adult, while 75 percent have been asked to send them, national broadcaster Yle reported.

    And one in ten Finnish children experience sexually explicit messaging on a weekly basis, the survey found. One third of the underage respondents said they had been offered rewards in return for sexual acts or messages. Nine percent of children who experienced grooming said they had agreed to video calls, whereas six percent said they had met in person.

    At least 40 percent of the children said they had agreed out of curiosity, but one third admitted that they did not quite understand the reality of the situation.

    Finland aims to become safer country

    In May this year, the objective of the Report on Internal Security submitted to parliament, stated that Finland wanted to become a safer country for all people and population groups in the future.

    Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo listed marginalization, social unease and multiple deprivation (mental health problems, social exclusion, etc.) as the biggest threats to internal security in Finland. “We need to prevent multi-generational deprivation and, in particular, strengthen the sense of security of the underprivileged,” Ohisalo said.

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