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Thursday's papers: Does Russia know about an asylum seeker route to Finland? Are Sonera network services really that bad?

Finland's Interior Minister wants a few words with his Russian colleagues, as Finnish border officials report an increase in asylum seeker entries via the eastern border this year. Thursday's dailies explore the developing asylum seeker situation - and what's up with those Sonera network disruptions?

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

Finnish authorities looking to manage the influx of asylum seekers have now turned their attention to the eastern border as arrivals via Russia began to pick up this year. According to tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat, Interior Minister Petteri Orpo said that the government will now turn to the Russian leadership to get to the bottom of the matter.

"It’s clear that government officials have not been able to resolve this issue," Orpo added.

The minister would not speculate on whether or not Russia may be deliberately allowing asylum seekers across the border into Finland. However he said he had discussed the reasons behind the human movement with Russian officials.

"I am of the view that nothing moves in the Russian border zone without the knowledge of Russian officials. I am disappointed with the position in which we find ourselves," Orpo remarked.

Orpo also said he was concerned that Russia’s weakening economy might be driving millions of immigrants west in search of greener pastures. The country is currently home to more than 10 million foreign nationals. The minister noted that asylum seekers who have arrived via the eastern border represent 30 nationalities.  Finnish Border Guards have estimated that at the current rate, roughly 7,500 asylum seekers will arrive in the country this year.

According to IS the Interior Minister said he’s looking forward to bilateral government talks on the issue. Orpo is due to meet his Russian opposite number Vladimir Kolokoltsev in Helsinki later in January. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä will hold discussions with Russian PM Dmitri Medvedev in St. Petersburg next Friday.

PM’s advisor: Russia using human crisis to weaken Europe

In a separate piece, Ilta-Sanomat highlights an opinion that claims Russia is taking advantage of the refugee crisis in the Middle East to destabilise Europe. The man behind the view is Antti Pentikäinen, a special advisor on the crisis to Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.

Pentikäinen, who took up his post last autumn, told the paper that the asylum seeker situation is expected to worsen this year. He charged that some states are taking advantage of the human flow to destabilise Europe. He specifically cited Russia, which he said has conducted air strikes in parts of Syria that could drive large numbers of people to seek safety elsewhere.

"Why strike schools and hospitals that are not militarily or logistically important targets?" Pentikäinen queried. On Wednesday, a Syrian human rights organisation reported that Russian air strikes in Syria have killed more than 1,000 civilians since September.

IMF: Finland to rank third in asylum seeker spending

The other main tabloid daily Iltalehti meanwhile covers an IMF report, which says Finland will rank among the top three states spending large portions of GDP on asylum seekers in 2016. The IMF report ranks Finland in third position, trailing Sweden and Denmark, which will spend even more in relation to their GDP.

The findings were released Wednesday, and found that Finland will devote 0.37 percent of national output or 100 million euros to tackling the influx of arrivals, while Sweden will spend one percent and Denmark 0.57 percent of GDP.

HS: Sonera’s mobile network most problematic, rivals improving

Delving into more mundane woes, largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat probes the spate of service disruptions experienced by customers of the teleoperator Sonera. The paper reports on data from Aalto University’s Netradar service, which provides consumers with information about the reliability of their mobile internet connections.

Last summer Sonera experienced a number of technical malfunctions that affected customer services. The paper noted that the performance of the operator’s mobile network then steadily improved until November. But the turnaround was short-lived and the number of service breaks began to climb once more.

According to Netradar in January 30 percent of data speed measurements from the Telia-Sonera network failed because they could not connect at all. Up to Tuesday evening, the number of network checks by customers reached 17,000. In 5,000 cases customers were not able to connect to the network for the performance test. According to the paper the frequency of customer checks indicates that Sonera’s mobile network suffered more disruptions than other providers’.

Last year consumers tested their Telia-Sonera network performance between 30,000 and 60,000 times every month.

"It’s also important to note that while the application [Netradar] shows that the number of disturbances has grown in the Sonera network, the reliability of its competitors’ networks has improved," said Aalto University Networks Professor Jukka Manner.

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