This week I participated in a seminar in Helsinki that was used as a public consultation among stakeholders across Finland who are dealing with migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. These stakeholders represented public and private sectors as well as NGOs. The main aim of the event was to generate views, initiatives and proposals to be included in the new National Programme for Integration and Migration that the Finnish Government aims at putting in action in the coming months (during 2016).
At the seminar the lively discussion with active exchange of experiences and open knowledge sharing was not only addressing the current state of affairs, but to a great extent looking into the future. The burning issue at hand was the numerous refugees who have been arriving in Finland in the past few weeks. Yet the views expressed were more focusing on how to support the easy access of these people to the Finnish labour market rather than problematizing their presence at the reception centres throughout the country.
For the first time in my opinion, there was an intention to do things together (bottom-up and top-down), to do them well and most importantly to jointly work together towards a common goal. This is definitely needed as the financial resources in Finland are diminishing and better targeted and coordinated measures to help arriving migrants are in high demand. If only all actors will pull together, miracles will happen, and everybody will benefit from that.
The concept of companionship is used to describe the way the national authorities wish that the cooperation across actors and sectors will look like in the future. No stakeholder alone can achieve much, but together we are strong and capable of creating something truly remarkable. So, instead of always emphasizing the administrative and legislative challenges between different sectors, Finland needs to rely on a companionship that reminds of a friendship across actors and sectors.
The current migration flows to Finland put a high pressure on the national authorities, the private sector companies and the NGOs. It is absolutely clear to everyone that there will be more people arriving in Finland from the war hit regions in the near future, and therefore we need a vision, a strategy and a well put-in-place cooperation for handling with due respect all foreigners who happen to come to our country for whatever reason. I am glad to say, indeed we are already working together towards this reality.