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Tuesday's papers: The fate of returnees, climate and energy concerns, abusive train conductor

Among the items in the newspaper press on Tuesday was a feature by Helsingin Sanomat attempting to verify stories of the torture and murder of rejected asylum seekers who returned to Iraq.

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

Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday published a two-page spread on its investigation into social media claims of cases of torture and murder met by people who had returned to Iraq after having their applications for asylum rejected in Finland.

Finland is currently negotiating an agreement with Iraq which would facilitate the forced return of rejected asylum seekers.

According to the paper, this year, Finnish authorities have not forcibly returned anyone to Iraq because it is a difficult process and the number of voluntary returnees has been high. This autumn, however, the numbers willing to go back to Iraq has declined.

Finnish officials say that they have no information about those who have returned to Iraq. Today's Helsingin Sanomat article focuses on its attempt to confirm four cases that have made the rounds of social media that include assault, torture and two men said to have been killed after going back to Iraq.

On the basis of documents that the paper was able to obtain and interviews it carried out, Helsingin Sanomat says that two of the reports seem to be accurate. Some of the information concerning the circumstances around one of the deaths was found to be lacking or conflicting, and one case could not be confirmed.

So far this year, around 1,500 people have returned to Iraq on flights organized by Finnish officials. In addition, over 1,000 people have returned with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration IOM. The full total is not known as some people may have returned on their own.

Climate and energy

The Oulu-based daily Kaleva was among the papers that reported that Finland yesterday joined the ranks of countries that have formally ratified the Paris Agreement on action to fight global climate change.

Finnish representatives filed the notice of ratification with the UN Secretary General in New York, after the agreement was endorsed by the Finnish cabinet and president last Friday.

The agreement, which came into force on the 4th of this month, is the first to commit nearly all the world's countries to reduce greenhouse emissions. So far, it has been ratified by 110 countries.

Meanwhile, the economic and business daily Kauppalehti today quotes the CEO of Finland's Fortum Energy group, Pekka Lundmark, as saying that a way has to be found to solve the climate problem, but "without sacrificing our industrial competitiveness on that altar."

Lundmark says that dealing with the issue of climate change will require massive investments, and he sharply criticized the present system of subsidies for clean energies that he says have disrupted the energy market. According to Lundmark, the promotion of renewable energy has led to an electricity surplus that has forced prices so far down that regular, basic power production is becoming unprofitable.

In the worst case scenario, the Fortum CEO told Kauppalehti, traditional forms of power generation will have to be subsidized, as well, "...because no one will accept that the power goes out when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine."

Lundmark's prescription is the speedy adoption of a technology-neutral, market-driven system that includes even tighter regulation of emissions to encourage an end to the use of coal.

Racist announcement

Yle's Swedish-language news service was the first to report an incident last Saturday in which a conductor made an announcement over a commuter train sound system reportedly saying that a group of "drunken immigrant youth" onboard should be ashamed of themselves and went on to call them "the dregs of humanity" and "manure".

Today's Turun Sanomat reports that the state railways VR has launched an internal investigation and issued a statement on Twitter saying that the company is proud of its values and this kind of behaviour is not among those values.

VR's community relations director told the Finnish news agency STT that the company will take measures to ensure this kind of incident does not reoccur, but declined to comment on how the company will deal with the conductor involved.

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