The figures show the proportion of claims against a suspect of “foreign background” has also increased – from one in four to one in two in the space of a year. This rise coincides with the arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Finland last autumn, leading to some high-profile cases of sexual harassment by new arrivals, which generated heated conversations in the media and online.
However Kolehmainen said the figures do not differentiate between asylum seekers and other immigrants.
“The statistics show that around half of sexual harassment claims are against Finns from the mainstream population, and the rest against people with foreign backgrounds,” he said. “So the numbers don’t separate out asylum seekers, but everyone is in the same category of ‘foreigners’.”
Kolehmainen says his forces have been upping their focus on sexual harassment since last winter, with more patrols at public gatherings or in certain parts of towns perceived as high risk.
He also says police have been talking to asylum seekers about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in Finland, and insists the drive has been successful – in spite of, or perhaps evidenced by, the rising numbers of incident reports.