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Thursday, 01 December, 2022
Home BUSINESSRunning hotel as refugee center in Finland lucrative but draws objection
Mon, 14 Dec, 2015 12:00:10 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report Dec. 14
Hotel Tallukka in Asikkala, which is planning to house refugees came under arson attack on December 12, 2015. Photo Lehtikuva.
The campaign of Finnish tourist municipality of Asikkala against its local hallmark hotel being converted into an asylum center has become a showcase of what a mixed blessing asylum centers can be.
     The saga got a new twist on Saturday as suspected arson was reported in the hotel Tallukka, which is about to house 500 new arrivals soon. There were no casualties in the fire, but damage from smoke was extensive. The owner of the hotel was optimistic that it can be refurbished soon.
     As the Finnish government is making efforts to deal with the some 32,000 arriving asylum seekers this year, many resort owners have found out that using their property as a center for accommodating refugees is more remunerative than as a hotel.
     However, local municipalities have, on several occasions, tried to oppose the establishment of asylum centres both on the grounds of concern among local citizens and for fear of losing accommodation for tourists.
     Finnish asylum centers are usually operated either by the Finnish Red Cross or by private companies. Some service firms, for example the ones caring the elderly, have been willing to take up the new course.
     The business model of running a refugee center is based on a complex array of contracts and responsibilities. Housing and food may be offered by the contracted operator who has signed a rental agreement with the property owner. Health care in refugee centers is being provided either by the municipal health authorities or by commercial health care companies. Local education authority handles teaching of minors.
     During the hectic initial weeks of establishing refugee centers in the early autumn, resort owners were reportedly able to make very good deals, as the somewhat inexperienced authorities had agreed to pay hotel-type daily rates per person. Later on, the price level was adjusted.
     Immigration authority told the media earlier that the rents per square metre usually range between six and twelve euros. That covers also electricity, heating and water, and no services for the inhabitants such as food. For the property owner, such rental income is still better than keeping a hotel with seasonal fluctuations and marketing costs.
     The law in Finland requires a tendering process should be applied in public procurements if the total exceeds 134,000 euros. But under the extraordinary circumstances for the moment, there has not always been time to follow the procedures, local media reported.
     The municipality of Asikkala went all out in public and filed a complaint to the Central Migration Authority against the Hotel Tallukka, near the scenic Vaaksy Canal, becoming a refugee center. But municipalities usually have no legal grounds for restricting property owners' rights to make the most money out of their properties.
     Asikkala community director Juri Nieminen told the media earlier that the municipality "had been betrayed" and its "touristic plans are in shatters."
     Kalevi Gran, the owner of the hotel, meanwhile said local governments have "no right to interfere with how he manages his assets."
     The establishment of a refugee center has usually meant more business for local kiosks and shops as the asylum seekers spend their per diem money on purchases. But if a hotel has closed, touristic revenue may vanish and seasonal events get no audience.
     In the case of the Hotel Tallukka, it is to house 500 asylum seekers, and the number means a 10 percent increase in the population of Asikkala.
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