Thursday’s papers: Cash for clunkers controversy, asylum seeker age probes, and Espoo hockey mess

Thursday’s press includes stories on possible misuse of a government scheme to reward people scrapping old cars, investigations into asylum seekers’ ages, and the fallout from the bankruptcy of a professional hockey team in Espoo.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Kauppalehti carries a story on the government’s so-called ‘Cash for Clunkers’ programme, which was lauded this week by the government body responsible for it, Trafi. Officials claim that they spent 8 million euros to get 8,000 lower-emission vehicles on the roads, and that the scheme was a resounding success.

KL, however, paints a slightly different picture. Car owners were eligible for a 1,500 euro payment on their old car, no matter what condition it was in, so long as it was registered to drive on Finnish roads.

The scheme did not specify, however, how long a car should have been registered to the owner before it was cashed in. KL reports that 16 percent of the cars used were registered the same day as they were traded in and fully half were registered for less than a month before they went to the scrapyard, suggesting that people may have bought very cheap old bangers purely to benefit from a state-funded handout.

Under-age asylum seekers

The number of asylum seekers falsely claiming to be under-age has increased in recent years, according to the Ostrobothnian daily Kaleva. That’s not altogether surprising, given that more than 30,000 people claimed asylum in Finland last year, but the paper has interviewed Vivian Visnapuu, who conducts some of these tests on behalf of the authorities.

The paper reports that dental examinations of asylum seekers last year found that 70 percent of those examined by forensic dentists were found to be older than 18. Last year there were 156 such investigations.

Espoo junior hockey in trouble

Ice hockey team Espoo Blues went bankrupt this season, and the fallout is still reverberating around the team’s community. They have been struggling financially for years, and the denouement was not such a surprise, but it does leave an Espoo-shaped hole in top-level ice hockey in Finland. There is a desire to keep an Espoo team in the league, and potential new owners are looking at buying the club’s ‘share’ and carrying on in the SM-Liiga, but first they have to clear the club’s debts or reach an accommodation with creditors.

Among the creditors are one group that perhaps commands a little more sympathy than others: Espoo Blues juniors. The Anglophonically-named junior club is paid certain sums every year by the professional outfit, and according to Ilta-Sanomat is now around 80,000 euros out of pocket. The money goes to pay for the salaries of coaches for the club’s under 16 and under 17 teams.

IS is concerned that, as so often in Finnish sport, the parents could be made to pay. That possibility is ruled out by the club’s Managing Director Niko Merikanto, who says that he has other sources of funding for the monies.

Even so, the future of junior hockey in Espoo looks bleak. IS reports that the organisation needs to save some 200,000 euros, and has already made its director of coaching redundant.

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