In 1990, integration in Vaasa began in earnest, even though the Integration Act did not exist at the time. Mirja Törmä, the late Director of Immigrant Work, played a strong role in the initial phase of integration. Törmä developed integration activities throughout her career until 2011.
Integration Director Ahmed Jama recalls the early years of integration, when the conditions faced by the first refugees arriving in Vaasa were different from those today.
– The customers in reception centres did not have the right to study or work and there was only one line of study in integration training. In addition, working with people with an immigrant background was completely new and different for many workers, says Jama.
The Immigrant Office played a key role in launching integration activities
Integration was implemented on a local level together with lessons learnt from Sweden, until the Integration Act came into force in 1999.
– At the time, the Integration Act brought a completely new drive to the work, recalls Reception Centre Director Pia Pajunurmi.
As a result of an organisational change made to the Social Work and Family Services sector in 2016, the Immigrant Office was closed down and its operations were decentralised to different service areas. The organisational change was based on the revamped Social Welfare Act, which aims to organise services to meet customer needs in the most functional form possible.
Development work is currently underway to clarify the responsibilities of the various parties and create new forms of cooperation.
Close cooperation with various actors
– Over the years, various units, associations and organisations in the City of Vaasa have come together to work towards integration. Together, we will achieve more and see the integration as a whole throughout the city, says Head of Integration Services Sonja Sulkakoski.
In addition to the various units in the City of Vaasa, the planning committee for the anniversary year also includes representatives from the Red Cross, Folkhälsan, EduVamia, the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO) and the Immigrant Council.
Various events are planned to celebrate the anniversary year
An All Nations event to celebrate the 30th anniversary, scheduled to take place at the end of April, will now be postponed to the end of the year due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus.
In addition to the All Nations event, an art exhibition has been planned at the city library, as well as a celebratory seminar for integration experts and professionals in the field.