Finland shocked by suspected 'racist' stabbings

Foreign-born citizens in the city of Oulu in northern Finland have said they feel unsafe after two stabbings police suspect may have been racially motivated.

The attacks took place in the main shopping centre in Oulu over the course of one week.

On 13 June, a 33-year-old local man - a former member of the banned neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement - is alleged to have attacked a 12-year-old boy of foreign heritage. He is also accused of attempting to attack a 14-year-old.

The younger child is currently being treated in hospital for serious injuries.

A second attack occurred in the same place on 18 June, when a man with a foreign background was allegedly stabbed by a 15-year-old.

Oulu police said preliminary information suggested that attack was also racially motivated and a copycat of the first stabbing. The victim was taken to hospital with injuries to his upper body that were not life-threatening, a statement added.

The attacks have caused shock across Finland and sparked widespread condemnation by politicians.

“There is no place for racism or racist violence in Finland," President Alexander Stubb said in a post on X. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo described the attacks and their "possibly racist motives" as "disgusting".

The opposition Social Democrats have proposed an urgent debate be held in the Finnish Parliament to discuss far-right violence.

All parliamentary parties, except for the far-right Finns Party, have backed the initiative.

Oulu, with a population of just over 200,000, is a technology hub 170km (100 miles) south of the Arctic Circle.

Although the number of recorded hate crimes in Finland has increased in recent years, violent attacks are extremely rare.

“These cases are terrible," Oulu Mayor Ari Alatossava told the BBC. “They’ve happened in a public space and in broad daylight - this is a new situation for us.”

Samina Kazi-Prat, 29, a PhD student at the University of Oulu, moved to Finland from India in 2018. She says the city's safety was one of the main reasons she chose to live there.

“I would walk alone at night without worrying about coming to any harm. Then all of a sudden we have two stabbings in the city centre," she said. "Now I’m thinking: I have to be careful and keep an eye on my surroundings.”

Ms Kazi-Prat said she hasn’t personally encountered racism in her day-to-day life in Oulu, but has noticed that racism has become more prevalent on social media in the last two years.

“Hatred has become more common and it’s being expressed more openly,” she said.

A young woman who moved to Oulu from the Middle East and wished to stay anonymous said she has been a target of racist comments on social media. The stabbings have made her scared.

“I’ve now started to check who’s walking behind me in the street," she said.

"Oulu is not safe now, especially for us foreigners."

Mayor Alatossava said the police presence in the city centre had been increased and the city had boosted outreach services for citizens with an immigrant background.