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Monday's papers: Happy taxpayers, expanding border guard, forced marriage, and less than charitable neighbours

Finland's press on Monday looks at a new evaluation of taxpayer attitudes, added funding for Finland's Border Guard, the story of Anna's forced marriage to an asylum-seeking man, and how a food bank was quashed by indignant neighbours.

nainen ottaa sormusta sormestaan
Officials are aware of 22 marriages that took place in Finland in 2015 in which one of the partners was underage. Image: AOP

A newspaper out of southwest Turku, Turun Sanomat, starts off the week with a story on happy taxpayers in Finland. A new poll commissioned by the Tax Administration suggests that Finnish attitudes towards taxation have improved. Results indicate that a full 79 percent gladly contribute a share of their earnings to fund various public expenditures.   

This approval level has risen by 10 percent in the last four years. A resounding 96 percent of the poll's respondents say they believe that tax revenues are very important to maintain the welfare state. Another 93 percent say they pay their taxes and any possible back taxes that are owed on time. Attitudes towards tax evasion have also become much tougher.

Three times as many trainees

The Aamulehti newspaper out of Tampere features a report on new Border Guard training. The Finnish Border Guard is charged with guarding Finland's borders on land and at sea, carrying out border checks at crossing points, ports and airports, and performing search and rescue operations, particularly at sea. The government decided to grant the organisation up to 10 million euros in added funding to train new personnel last year, after years of savings reduced their numbers.

Three times more students than normal will be admitted to Border Guard training programmes over the next two years. The first class of 120 new recruits will begin in January 2018. The plan is to post 55 more guards along the eastern border, assign 55 more to address expanding EU security issues, and post another 45 additional guards to carry out patrol duties at the Helsinki Airport.

The Border Guard's head of planning and finance, Colonel Jaakko Hamunen, tells the paper that the money allocated was about half of what the group requested to meet its growing obligations. Airport operations in particular have increased far more than expected. He says the Border Guard will likely have to come knocking on lawmakers' doors again soon, to make sure that Finland's mounting need for security monitoring is up to snuff.

Marry me or I will kill myself

Next to the newspaper many capital city dwellers start their day with: Helsingin Sanomat. It tells the haunting story of Anna, who was harassed into marrying an asylum seeker

Most forced marriages in Finland involve children under 18. Officials are aware of 22 marriages that took place in Finland in 2015 in which one of the partners was underage. In over half of these cases, one of the partners lived outside of Finland.

Anna was married just four days after she had turned 18 in a magistrate's office in southern Finland. Her new husband was a 32-year-old man she had met at her summer job. He was also originally from an Asian country, but a different one from which Anna had arrived in Finland many years earlier. He quickly began to harass her, sending texts and presenting demands. He insisted that she marry him so he could be granted residence in Finland. He begged, threatened and blackmailed her, saying that if she would not agree to do it, he would commit suicide outside her family home.

She never went on to live with him, and two months later, she filed an application with the district court to nullify the marriage. The court denied her application, saying that Finland's legislation says that a marriage is valid when the legal conditions are met. She appealed the decision and was rejected again. She was forced to apply for a divorce.

Virve Toivonen from the Ministry of Justice tells HS that the Council of Europe's Treaty on Preventing Violence against Women obliges EU Member States to impose punishments on forced marriages. Norway, Sweden and Denmark have done so.

Finland has not specifically criminalised the practice, hence Anna's difficulties in getting recognition for her annulment. Representatives of the courts say that there is no need for it, as it is so easy to get a divorce in Finland. For victims like Anna, the difference between a nullification of an unwanted marriage and a divorce is, however, substantial.

The paper concludes by saying that the majority of the people that it interviewed for the story support outlawing forced marriages in Finland. They say a law would give a clear message that Finland does not condone the practice.

Helping the needy is an inconvenience to the neighbours

And finally this Monday, a story from the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat about a woman who distributed leftover food to the needy from her home – that is until her neighbours made her stop. Estimates show that the average Finns throws 24 kilograms of edible food away each year. One person in the Malminkartano district of Helsinki decided to do something about it, and began collecting and handing out discarded food to people in need. The woman in charge of the homespun operation said that 60 or so families took advantage of the service.

"At first everything went well. Our 'Friends to Everyone' volunteer association made sure that everything was sorted and distributed appropriately… I divided most of the donated food up in my home and I paid the expenses myself," she tells IS.

"But this autumn one of our neighbours on the housing board began to complain that the campaign had become a hindrance for the neighbourhood. He/she said that the cars would stop for too long on roads that should stay open for emergency purposes, and that the rubbish bins were too full. He/she gathered three names and filed a complaint. On September 12, I got a note from the housing company that I had disobeyed the rules."

She contacted the customer manager of the Heka-Malminkartano firm to try and work things out, but was then served a written notice to cease her operations.

Jaana Närö of the Helsinki City Housing company tells IS that she is not familiar with the details of the case, but says that it appears that the neighbours found the charitable activity to be an inconvenience.

"Maybe the fine points of the service could be worked out so no one is disturbed? Arranging the delivery of food from someone's private flat might be hard to implement," Närö says.

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