Research Highlights Assault as Leading Hate Crime Linked to Racism in Finland

Oulu, Finland — In a recent statement, a leading hate crime researcher highlighted assault as the predominant offense driven by racism, casting a spotlight on the dark intersection of racial prejudices and violent acts. Such insights come in the wake of two stabbings at Oulu’s Valkea shopping center, incidents that law enforcement believes were racially motivated.

Despite a general rise in hate crime figures over the past few years, incidents of extreme violence like the recent stabbings in Oulu remain somewhat rare, according to Jenita Rauta of the Police University College. These attacks are under scrutiny, not just for their violent nature, but also for their suspected racial undertones.

Rauta, who closely monitors trends in racially motivated crimes, remarked on the unusual severity of the Oulu attacks. “These are particularly alarming instances of hate crimes that have emerged in public spaces, which is uncommon,” she said. In 2022, Finland reported approximately 1,200 suspected hate crimes, reflecting a number similar to that seen in 2015 during a major influx of asylum seekers.

Police investigations have noted that the suspect in the initial stabbing was an Oulu man identified with far-right activism. He has since denied that racism played a role in his actions. However, the subsequent attack is also being probed as potentially racially motivated. Rauta stated that the most common motive behind such hate crimes tends to be the victim’s ethnic background, often triggered by provocations.

According to Rauta, typical scenarios involve minor altercamps that escalate dramatically. “Often, it starts with racial slurs thrown at individuals of darker skin, which then spirals into violence,” she explained.

More severe incidences of racial violence tend to be grossly underreported, noted Rauta. She detailed that “simple assaults, which include spitting or pushing based on racial bias, as well as illegal threats and slander, make up a significant portion of these crimes.”

Official data from Statistics Finland support the concern over rising hate crimes targeting individuals’ life or health, recording more such crimes last year than any year since 2007. The common profile of suspects in these hate crimes is predominantly young, white Finnish men, whereas the victims usually are Finnish nationals from various ethnic backgrounds.

Heightened tensions and racial misidentifications have also played a role, particularly with the influx of Ukrainian refugees following the Russian invasion in 2022. “There’s a noticeable confusion among Finns who do not differentiate between Ukrainians and Russians, exacerbating the situation for Ukrainians who often speak Russian,” Rauta added.

Moreover, the under-reporting of hate crimes remains a critical issue. Rauta suggests that even though the threshold for reporting has somewhat declined due to increased awareness and the influence of social media, only about 20 percent of hate crime victims file reports with the police.

These statistics and incidents point to a broader, more systemic problem that requires comprehensive investigations and community engagement to foster a more inclusive and safe environment free of racial prejudice and violence.