International news is dominated by the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and its implications for the rest of Europe, and for once small-town Finland's newspapers are covering an aspect of the same news agenda. Refugee reception centres need to be established across the country to handle the some 15,000 asylum seekers expected to arrive in Finland this year.
Unfortunately, that plan isn't popular in the smaller cities that have so far been asked to host the centres. On Monday Vihti and Keuruu councils voted against centres being set up in their towns, while Kouvola's city board approved (siirryt toiseen palveluun) a new 150-bed facility.
Threats and protests
Iltalehti visited Keuruu on Monday, when the council met to vote, reporting a heavy police presence (siirryt toiseen palveluun) because of threats made against those supporting the proposed centre. There had also been rumours of a demonstration by those opposed, but IL only found two women who turned up with placards to express their support for refugee accommodation in the town.
"We have everything good here," said one of the women. "Surely we can find it in our hearts to help those who really need it?"
That was a forlorn hope, as inside the town hall the councillors voted to reject the centre by a margin of 21 to 14. Prior to the vote local paper Suur-Keuruu had reported an event where a policeman from Helsinki spoke (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in a private capacity, he said) warning of the security risks associated with refugees.
Think of the (Finnish) children
In Vihti, meanwhile, a Finns Party-led demonstration was held to protest a proposal to host refugees. The opposition seemed to be based on fears that may or may not be grounded in reality. One father, who commutes to Kirkkonummi for work every day, told Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that he'd heard unpleasant stories about that town's new reception centre--or at least the reaction of local people to the presence of asylum seekers.
"Children have to be taken to school in a group by one parent," said the father. "We want to send both our kids to the same local school, so we don't want a reception centre nearby."
Teenage girls were also present, and their fears were based on the same projected threat: jittery parents limiting children's freedom because refugees are nearby.
"I don't want my mum to be forced to worry and to make me come home earlier," said Heli Koivisto.
While Vihti's city board voted against a permanent centre being established there, the town may yet host emergency accommodation for those claiming asylum.
"Finland's only Republican"
While his party's local chapters were busying themselves protesting against asylum centres, Finns Party leader (and Foreign Minister) Timo Soini has been in Alaska for a conference on Arctic climate change.
The Finnish embassy tweeted Soini's big moment--a blurry photograph (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of his grip-and-grin with President Obama, along with the news that he introduced himself as 'Timo from Finland. Ready to help.'
That statesmanship done with, Helsingin Sanomat sat down with the minister for a discussion of his political values, and how he describes himself to Americans. In his own words he is, apparently, one of Finland's "three Republicans", the others being a centre-right MP and an economically liberal think tank director.
The Catholic Soini also said he is "pro-life but pro-Obamacare", which apparently and understandably confuses his Republican interlocutors. Soini did not, however, comment on Europe's refugee crisis.
Enjoy the sun while you can
And finally the obligatory weather story. It's going to rain, and possibly sleet, at the end of this week--so enjoy the last dregs of summer while you still can.
Ilta-Sanomat brings (siirryt toiseen palveluun) this news along with the customary glee, splashed across the front page. So if you have chance to get out in the sun before the weekend, try to do so.