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Annika Forsander 1965–2018



Doctor of Social Sciences, Docent, and the Head of the Centre of Expertise in Immigrant Integration at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Annika Forsander (b. 1965) passed away suddenly in her home on Friday, April 20, 2018. She was appointed as the first director of immigration issues in the city of Helsinki in 2007. In addition, she worked as a Director of Development at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, playing a central role in the founding of the Centre of Expertise in Immigrant Integration in 2014. Annika’s work in city and state administration and in policy development was strongly influenced by her background in academic research. For example, prior to her appointment in the city of Helsinki, she worked as a researcher at the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN) of the Swedish School of Social Science (University of Helsinki).

Thanks to her long experience both as a researcher and as a public official, Annika’s knowledge and understanding of matters of immigration and integration was exceptionally broad, which is why her expertise was sought after both in Finland and abroad. Annika was a forerunner in Finnish immigration research. During her career, Annika studied immigrant integration from several perspectives, especially in regard to labor markets. Her PhD thesis “Conditions of Trust: Immigrants in the 1990s Finnish Labour Market”, which she defended in 2002 at the University of Turku, was one of the first Finnish PhD theses that dealt with immigration.

After the research program ”Syrjäytyminen, eriarvoisuus ja etniset suhteet Suomessa” (Marginalisation, Inequality and Ethnic Relations in Finland), funded by the Academy of Finland in  2000–2003, a group of researchers, in which Annika played a key role, sought for ways to develop Finnish research on ethnicity and immigration. Annika had excellent international connections and she was very well informed about European research in the field. Together with other researchers, she took example from Swedish and Dutch research networks, on the basis of which ETMU was founded in 2003. Annika was very active in ETMU in the founding phase, and followed the Society’s activities closely also after her active period.

Annika’s research colleagues remember her as an inspiring, analytic, and broad-minded person. She once said, referring to the insecurities of research careers, that “in this profession [of a researcher] you need to be able to take punches in the face”: most researchers face several obstacles in their careers and, hence, it is central to find out how you overcome difficult situations. In addition to this realistic perspective, Annika’s work and actions conveyed sincere enthusiasm to build better immigration and integration policies through research and city and state administration.

Annika will be missed by her two children and by a large group of colleagues and friends.


Rolle Alho, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki

Tuomas Martikainen, Director, Migration Institute of Finland


The members of the ETMU Board would like to express their gratitude to Annika for her important work in the founding of ETMU and in the field of migration research in Finland in general. We would also like to convey our sincere condolences to Annika’s family, friends, and colleagues.

On May 4, 2018, the ETMU Board founded the Annika Forsander Memorial Fund, which will provide grants for conference travel expenses of PhD researchers working on themes related to ethnic relations and international migration. Persons close to Annika wish that she will be commemorated by supporting young scholars. More information about the by-laws of the Fund, as well as the application instructions, will be added to the ETMU website in the weeks to come.

More information about commemorating Annika.