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Friday’s papers: Refugee real estate biz, crime and punishment, and #pizzagate

The printed press on Friday covers a range of topics including the booming demand for rental space to house refugee reception centres, the cost of crime, and how one Tampere restaurateur was insulted by the police's #pizzagate crackdown on the grey economy.

Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Finland’s main daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (HS) leads with the story of how the huge demand for new emergency refugee reception centres is turning into business opportunity for estate agents.

“At first we received offers of space to let from individuals, but now many queries are coming directly from estate agents,” says Jorma Kuuluvainen, director of the refugee reception centre department with Finnish Immigration Services.

Enrico Ruuskanen of Kirkkonummi, a Helsinki suburb, has rented out his former Aavaranta hotel (which has also previously operated as a school) as a refugee reception centre. 

“There’s appears to be a huge demand for this type of space and I received a lot of queries from various parties,” Ruuskanen told HS.

He says it was a relatively easy decision: “There were not that many hotel reservations for the winter season, so when several good offers came in, we decided to go this route.” Ruuskanen would neither reveal the estate agent's name nor the rental price that he received for letting out his building as an emergency refugee reception centre. The estate agent will take care of the building while the Red Cross will handle the services needed for those living there.

Other HS stories include how savings measures are affecting the prison system: continual cutbacks to both operating budgets and staff levels mean that prisoners are often -- on a daily basis -- left alone with other prisoners without a guard. 

On a related topic, HS reports that a new citizens initiative to increase the punishment for sexual offences against children from a one-year prison sentence to two years has gathered 58,000 signatures, which means that it goes forward to parliament for legal consideration. (Fifty-thousand signatures are required for a citizens' initiative to go forward to parliament for a potential change to the law). According to the story, all Members of Parliament present supported the move to increase the punishment to two years and it was stressed by many that the debate should not be about money: a year in jail costs taxpayers about 70,000 euros.

Suggestion of grey economy practices hurtful

Tampere daily Aamulehti leads with a cover story about pizzagate, the police initiative to crack down on pizzerias selling cheap pizzas, as it claims in its crackdown on the grey economy (announced earlier this week) that a pizza that costs less than 6.50 euros is not 'legally' possible. (MaRa, the Finnish Hospitality Association, which is working on the pizza crackdown together with the police, represents many of Finland’s large restaurant chains.)

In Aamulehti’s piece, Tampere’s Etelän Kebab Pizzeria owner Helmi Fatih says that he is upset and insulted by the suggestion that pizzas costing less than 6.50 euros are made using shady reporting practices. Fatih says it is possible to sell a pizza for 6.80 euros, including a salad and a juice, and be above-board and make a profit. “I’ve paid my taxes for last month, which were 30,000 euros and will pay my taxes for October which will be 40,000,” says Fatih, whose turnover for his restaurant in 2014 was 660,000 euros.

Meanwhile, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that 33-year-old National Coalition Party MP Elina Lepomäki thinks that an MP's monthly salary of 6,300 euros is too low. “That salary affects what type of people end up in Parliament,” wrote Lepomäki in a Facebook post that lead to a flurry of articles. No word yet from Lepomäki on what the appropriate compensation for MPs should be.