Somalilandsun – Somali-born Adan Ibrahim has been selected the 2014 Immigrant Man of the Year – an award distributed by the Finnish Refugee Council.
The 1,000-euro prize was established in 2012 to reward deserving migrant men and to highlight the diverse immigrant community, according to the Council. The group has presented an award for Immigrant Woman of the Year since 1998.
•The 2014 recipient of the Immigrant Man of the Year award – also known as the Mr. Immigrant award by the Finnish Refugee Council – was selected on the basis of his positive impact on society. The 29 year-old Somali native Aadan Ibrahim was singled out by the organisation for his work helping immigrant youth. The Vantaa resident works with the R3 association, a support group for young migrants.
“By presenting this award to Ibrahim we want to remind others that even migrants with the most difficult backgrounds are working hard to participate in building our society,” said FRC head Annu Lehtinen.
Ibrahim arrived in Finland from Somalia in 1996 to escape political unrest. He was alone in Finland except for his then twenty year-old sister who had settled in Finland a few years earlier. After graduating as a youth counselor he went into the army and later began working with young immigrants in Vantaa.
He described the work of R3 as essential, noting that workers in official channels don’t always have the time to help young adults wrestling with an assortment of different problems. The organisation also hosts “inspirational evenings” for its members, where young people can hear success stories told by other immigrants.
“I’m always energised when we can help someone who faces discrimination to get a job or a place to live,” Ibrahim explained.
Poor economy undermining integration efforts
Ibrahim said that he’s most troubled by the twin problems of unemployment and homelessness facing migrant youth.
“The economic situation has also affected integration and we can see it in the lack of housing. We need to find new solutions and tactics. For example in Vantaa we have had positive experiences with shared accommodation,” he remarked.
He also condemned the limited availability of Finnish-language courses for young migrants.
“It can’t be that you have to wait a year to get into a language course. At the same time (that they’re waiting) young people receive benefits and this makes them passive,” he warned.
Ibrahim advised newcomers to Finland to get out and about in their local communities as an important means of integrating into Finnish society.
“Get to know your neighbours,” he counseled both natives and non-Finns.
As the new face representing migrants in Finland, Ibrahim will spend the next year speaking about the status of his peers. He’s also looking forward to exciting developments in his personal life, as he awaits a decision by Finnish immigration authorities on his application to have his wife and infant child join him in Finland.
“It may come in the New Year,” he said optimistically.