Roma/Gypsies of Finland belong to the eastern Kale group and settled at the end of the sixteenth century. Numbering about 10,000, they live mostly in urban areas (source: National Minorities of Finland). Although some of Finland's Roma/ Gypsies still speak their Kale dialect, most speak Finnish.

Historical context

Roma first settled in the then Kingdom of Sweden-Finland in the early sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, the Roma were told to relocate to the eastern part of the realm, which now forms Finland. At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, the official policy was to assimilate the Roma into the Finnish population. Roma children were frequently separated from their parents and the Kale language was banned. But since the 1960s, the goal has been to integrate the Roma into Finnish society whilst still respecting their wish to maintain a distinct identity. In 1995, an amendment to the 1919 Constitution guaranteed the Roma, along with the Sami and other minorities, the right to retain and develop their own language and culture. Accordingly, the Kale language in Finland now has the status of a non-territorial minority language and Finland's Roma community is recognized as a national minority under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Since the 1960s Roma/Gypsies have campaigned for better housing and for instruction in the Kale language. The Finnish Gypsy (since 1990 ‘Romani') Association was founded in 1967, and an Advisory Board on Gypsy (since 1990 ‘Romani') Affairs has operated since 1956 in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. In 1992 the Unit for the Development of Romani Education and Culture was set up by the Finnish National Board of Education to promote Romani language and culture.

Current issues

Unemployment continues to be a major problem of concern to the Finnish Roma mainly due to their generally low level of education. The living conditions of the Roma remain poorer than for the majority Finnish population. Since the 1970s, the Finnish government has tried to facilitate the acquisition of homes by Roma families through housing allocations and low-interest loans. Despite these efforts, Roma housing conditions have not improved much and Roma still face discrimination in the housing market. In addition to widespread prejudice in employment and housing, the Roma also face discrimination in access to restaurants and other licensed premises. Prejudicial treatment occurs even though the Finnish Penal Code criminalizes incitement to racial hatred and racial discrimination.

Minorities and indigenous peoples in
< Finland