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Friday's papers: Asylum seekers, a two-tiered housing market, tax dodgers, and a Swedish visit

Finland's newspapers look at changing asylum seeker demographics, housing disruption, unreported Airbnb income and more.

Ruotsin tuore ulkoministeri Ann Linde kuvattuna Brysselissä tammikuussa 2018.
Sweden's new foreign minister, Ann Linde, will meet with her counterpart Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki. Image: All Over Press

Southwest newspaper Turun Sanomat reports that so far this year, Turks, Russians and Iraqis make up the largest group of asylum seekers applying for international protection in Finland.

The paper says that the number of Turkish applicants will grow by 45 percent compared to last year, if the trend continues, as 283 people from Turkey sought asylum between January and August. Increases of asylum seeker applicants have been seen throughout the EU. European Asylum Support Office figures, which include Switzerland and Norway, state that over 24,000 Turkish citizens sought asylum in 2018. Most of the applicants say the threat stemming from their real or perceived membership in the Gülen movement is behind their decision to flee their home, according to the paper.

Most of the asylum applications submitted to the Finnish Immigration Service Migri continue to come from Iraq nationals. Last year, there were 880 Iraqi applicants. TS notes that this is nevertheless a dramatic drop from the 20,000-plus Iraqi asylum requests recorded in 2015.

The haves and have nots

The daily Helsingin Sanomat examines Finland's current "two-tiered housing market", whereby prices on homes in rural areas plummet while urban housing prices stay strong.

The paper reports of real estate broker websites full of remote mid-size row homes available for as little as 12,000 euros and well-maintained detached homes with a selling price of just 40,000 euros. Because they are located in remote areas, however, there are no buyers. In 45 different municipalities, fewer than 10 homes were sold last year, forcing many homeowners to hold on to properties in the hope that the market will improve.

The problem is that it probably won't. Ari Pauna, CEO of Finland's Mortgage Society, told HS in 2015 that only one-third of Finnish municipalities had healthy housing markets. Now, his verdict is even gloomier, the paper reports, as he has limited his positive prognosis to only the three metropolitan areas of Helsinki, Tampere and Turku.

Airbnb hosts dodge taxes

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat covers a Uutissuomalainen news consortium story that says one-third of people peddling short-term housing rental agreements have not paid taxes on their income.

Tax authorities reported that about 3,000 of the 8,800 taxpayers that drew income from renting out property for short periods had not reported their resulting earnings.

"It's very strange that so many people failed to report this income, even though the Tax Administration has given plenty of guidance and told them that we can detect rental income, even when they don't report it," taxman Timo Puiro tells the news agency.

Three thousand people may not sound like much, but the income they failed to report is estimated at 15.4 million euros, which means a loss of about five million euros in tax revenue for the state.

The largest short-term rental facilitator operating in Finland is Airbnb. Tax authorities would not reveal how many of the delinquent taxpayers were associated with the San Francisco-based broker, but they did say that the offenders ran the gamut: from poor university students to rich real estate investors.

New Swedish FM visits Finland

And lastly, Kuopio-based newspaper Savon Sanomat highlights the first visit to Finland of Ann Linde in her new role as Sweden's foreign minister today.

Linde will arrive in Helsinki to meet with her Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto. She has previously served as Sweden's minister for foreign trade and minister for Nordic cooperation.

Sweden's new Social Democratic minister was named to the post just three days ago, after her predecessor Margot Wallström stepped down after five years of service for family reasons.

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