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Wednesday's papers: Iraqi proposal, care home complaint and Helsinki hotel boom

Wednesday's papers carry news of a strange proposal to expedite deportations to Iraq, a complaint over care home standards and an expansion in hotel capacity.

Hjallis Harkimo
Harri Harkimo Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat leads with an expose of an unusual proposal to the Finnish government to expedite deportations to Iraq. HS reports that the Finnish presenter of The Apprentice, MP Harry Harkimo, arranged meetings for Peter Fryckman, a businessman with fraud convictions, and Saad al-Obaidi, an Iraqi who served as a general under Saddam Hussein, in an effort to move the proposal forward.

In a nutshell, the proposed deal was that Finland would purchase expensive defence products for Iraq, which would then sign an accord guaranteeing it would accept deported Iraqis. At present it only accepts those with identity papers, voluntary returnees and those convicted of crimes.

Since 2015 several thousand Iraqis have had asylum claims rejected by Finland and are believed to be undocumented migrants in the country. The Interior Ministry believes there are around 5,000 such Iraqis in Finland, and that their undocumented status makes them a security risk.

Fryckman proposed in 2016 that the procurements be made via the little-known Swedish Defence Equipment company, which has a small turnover and little track record in major projects like this. The chair of the company’s board Sven Olof Kviman told HS that the units (apparently shipping containers converted to screen people for weapons) would be constructed in Iraq.

HS reckoned that the price quoted—100 million euros or a million euros per container—was around ten times more than similar products would cost if purchased elsewhere.

Needless to say, al-Obaidi and Fryckman declined to comment on the story. Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who set up a meeting after he was contacted by Harkimo, also kept schtum.

Several officials had poor memory of meetings they attended, while Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö’s special advisor went to meet the pair with the Interior Ministry’s head of immigration Jorma Vuorio.

It was a no-frills encounter, a short meeting that got straight to the point and where ‘not even water was offered’, according to Vuorio. HS noted that, given its shaky foundations, the entire proposal was at least open to accusations of corruption.

Care home scandal rumbles on

Several papers carry the STT report on the town of Varkaus preparing to make a criminal complaint about the care home operator Attendo. The local authority believes the firm is operating a facility with staff levels so low they are breaching their license.

Municipal employees are currently visiting the home in question every day and sometimes at night to keep tabs on what's happening, and STT reports that they believe the Jalava home is not operating with the required staffing levels, management procedures or professionally-trained personnel.

Meanwhile Savon Sanomat interviews the sacked manager of the unit. Virpi Montonen said that she believes she's a scapegoat, and that individual managers have little power to make the required changes.

"All decisions went via the regional management," Montonen tells the paper. "Independent decisions can't be made, only recommendations."

Montonen had transferred to the Varkaus facility from an assisted living location in Kuopio, and said the contrast was stark. She said that the Jalava license stated a minimum of 0.5 staff members per resident was required. She kept the ratio at 0.6 and, she claims, was consistently reprimanded by Attendo managers.

Recent weeks have seen a string of reports on harrowing conditions in old-age care homes in Finland, with the private contractors Esperi Care and Attendo accused of running sub-standard services, with the CEO of Esperi Care quitting over the scandal.

Helsinki hotel capacity expands

Kauppalehti has good news for anyone planning a trip to Helsinki: between now and 2021 some 3,000 extra hotel rooms will be added in the capital city region, easing a shortage that had pushed up prices.

The story, which is based on a real estate consultancy's assessment, suggests that the capital will see around a quarter more hotel rooms enter the market. that is likely to increase competition but also potentially increase tourism in the city.

There are currently some 9,400 hotel rooms in Helsinki, which according to Statistics Finland were in December running at around 70 percent capacity.

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