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Tuesday's papers: United Brotherhood sting, anti-bullying priority, passport machine malfunction

Papers in Finland report on a broad-scale police operation, the problem of school bullying and delays at the airport.

United Brotherhood -jengiliivi
Nearly 20 United Brotherhood members, who wear leather vests bearing the criminal group's name, were rounded up in a week-long raid. Image: Poliisi

A massive police operation to curb organised crime has resulted in 18 arrests, one jail sentence and numerous seized weapons and drug shipments, according to top-selling daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The week-long series of busts all targeted the crime syndicate known as the United Brotherhood. Police carried out operations in Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Joensuu, Vantaa, Porvoo, Tuusula and Helsinki.

"Home searches have yielded a large number of firearms. Illegal drugs have also been confiscated from several locations," said detective Ari Lahtela from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in HS.

Police arrested a total of 18 people over the course of the broad-scale raids, some of whom are high up in the United Brotherhood command chain. Nine people were taken into custody on Monday 2 September in the Turku region alone, HS writes.

"The Turku operation targeted persons who are suspected of smuggling narcotics into prisons for enormous gains," detective superintendent Aki Lahtinen from the South-West Finland police department said in a statement. "They were imprisoned on Thursday suspected of aggravated drug offenses."

The Criminal Sanctions Agency's Sami Peltovuoma said in a press conference on Monday that the United Brotherhood is a coalition of three previously independent criminal groups with significant power in Finnish prisons. He said members of the Brotherhood employ tactics such as violence, threats, blackmail, invented debts and promises of brotherhood membership.

Prosecutor Leena Metsäpelto said that the United Brotherhood – deemed the most dangerous organised crime group in Finland in terms of violent offenses and drug crimes – should be abolished based on the Associations Act, even though the organisation is not technically an association.

Local education clause hinders anti-bullying work

Bullying continues to be a serious problem in Finnish schools, and government must do more to address it, Minister of Education Li Andersson said, according to Tuesday's Ilta-Sanomat. Her comments follow last week's news about an Oulu woman whose social media post detailing her daughter's schoolyard harassment gained broad attention.

Andersson said that a single harassment case is one too many, and that anti-bullying programmes would be very high on the list of the new coalition government's priorities.

"Everyone is entitled to a safe primary education. Finland has worked for many years to curb school bullying, and the work must continue," Andersson told IS.

The paper writes that many readers of bullying news have wondered why bullies are not simply expelled from school. Andersson said that municipalities may in some cases transfer a bullying student to another school, but only with their guardians' permission.

"There is that option. The law also says that temporary expulsion is possible in serious cases," she said.

Another obstacle stands in the way of simply sending bullies away from their victims.

"Parental permission in expulsion cases is very difficult to overturn, because Finland guarantees a child's right to nearby, local education," Andersson told IS. "The same law guarantees that special needs children receive the support they need in their own vicinity."

Passport tech glitches

New automatic passport-checking machines at the Helsinki Airport are malfunctioning and slowing down passenger traffic, according to a report from tabloid Iltalehti.

Passengers have been complaining all summer long that long queuing times have caused further trouble at baggage claims and with connecting flights.

Finnish Border Guard control officer Petteri Mattila told IL that the new system has indeed had a bumpy start.

"This is a pilot phase in the testing of these machines," he said. "There is new technology in these devices and they are different from the previous models. The process is being developed constantly based on feedback such as this."

The new passport-checking machines were introduced in early July, and eventually the old models from 2008 will be phased out entirely.

A further 10 machines will soon be added to arrival terminals, and 20 more to departure terminals, according to the paper.

"The new technology is intended to support border control operations and improve border security," Mattila said.

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