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Thursday's papers: Asylum protests, and the true cost of housing and high school

Thursday's newspapers include stories on police attempts to ban anti-deportation protesters from Helsinki-Vantaa airport, a fresh look at claims made about the cost of housing, and appeals for a reduction in the cost of high school.

Laittomat karkoitukset lopetettava -mielenosoitus Kansalaistorilla.
Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Finland has stepped up deportations of failed asylum seekers in recent months, and received a great deal of criticism for doing so. The government is pressing ahead with plans to remove people without residence permits however, and that leaves protesters searching for other means to prevent the removals.

One key tactic used by immigrant support groups has been to protest at the airport. Some deportees have been removed from flights after other passengers protested, and the goal of airport demonstrations is to raise awareness and encourage similar onboard protests.

Unfortunately for the protesters, Turun Sanomat reports today that airport police have ruled that they can't protest in front of Terminal 2 at Helsinki Vantaa, with permitted demo locations so far from the terminal as to be invisible to any passers-by.

Police say they've reached that decision after discussion with airport operator Finavia in an effort to avoid noise, counter-demonstrations and other possible disturbances. Protesters tell TS they intend to make an official complaint about the decision in an effort to establish their right to hold demonstrations closer to the airport.

Housing costs

In an editorial, Helsingin Sanomat takes a critical look at a study from PTT that was widely covered in the press on Wednesday. The report claimed that the cost of living in an apartment was set to grow faster than the cost of living in a single family house, but HS begs to differ.

The problem is that the study counts mortgage payments only as costs, rather than investments, and therefore ignores the equity homeowners hold in their properties. The higher costs, therefore, reflect the greater wealth accumulated by mostly urban apartment owners compared to more rural single family home owners.

In fact depopulation is a real issue for much of Finland, and HS notes that although monthly outgoings may be small in some parts of the country, property wealth is also limited. That makes it difficult and sometimes even unviable to move to growing cities for work, which has a negative impact on the national economy.

To remedy the situation, HS proposes reduction or elimination of stamp duty, Finland's property transaction tax, in order to make that move less expensive.

High school book cost

HS also reports on a move by several NGOs to propose a citizens' initiative that would make high school or secondary stage vocational education free to users. At present there are big costs for books in high school, and often for equipment in vocational schools, making it a difficult time for low-income families.

The citizens' initiative will call for this stage of education to be genuinely free of charge, in line with their interpretation of Article 16 of the constitution which guarantees education to all regardless of wealth or income.

HS reports that a quarter of those who drop out of school during their high school years cite a lack of financial resources as one reason behind their decision. The costs can be substantial, with the Union of Upper Secondary School Students claiming that a high school student is required to buy books costing some 2,600 euros.

That's a big outlay, and thanks to a recent curriculum change second hand books are no longer an option: many of them now come in ebook format. That's covered in another, bigger HS article with a different emphasis, claiming that the cost of high school books has halved.

They have, but only if you buy just a six month license to use them with--naturally--no resale value. One of the companies in the HS price comparison is SanomaPro, which is owned by Sanoma--the same company that publishes Helsingin Sanomat.

The citizens' initiative on free education is due for publication in the autumn. If it obtains the signatures of 50,000 citizens, parliament will have to consider enacting legislation on the issue.

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