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Finland proposes emergency law to restrict illegal migrants from Russian border

Tuesday May 21, 2024

FILE PHOTO: Group of migrants arrive to the international border crossing at Salla

Mogadishu (HOL) –  Finland’s government has introduced emergency legislation to restrict illegal asylum seekers from crossing its extensive border with Russia, citing political tensions related to the Ukraine war.

The move follows Finland’s closure of its 1,340 km (830 mile) border last year, a decision made due to increased migrant arrivals from countries like Syria and Somalia. The closure coincided with Finland’s entry into NATO, and Helsinki has accused Moscow of using migration as a political tool. Russia denies these claims, alleging Western smear campaigns instead.

Finland Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized the necessity of the law for national security. Despite a significant drop in migrant crossings this year, Finnish authorities fear that warmer weather could make travel easier and 
that Russia might escalate migration pressures.

“It is the government's duty to ensure the security of the borders, Finland, and Finns in all situations,” Orpo said at a news conference. He criticized current EU legislation as insufficient and expressed hope that Finland’s efforts would lead to European-level solutions.

The draft law, proposed by Finland’s right-wing coalition, acknowledges that turning back migrants without processing asylum applications could breach international rights commitments. However, Orpo emphasized that the measure would be temporary and activated only in exceptional circumstances.

Finland's eastern border is the longest shared by both the EU and NATO with Russia. Helsinki is advocating for EU exceptions in cases where member states are targeted with migration to destabilize society. Pushback practices by countries like Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Greece have faced condemnation from the European Court of Human Rights.

The legislation requires approval from five-sixths of Finland’s parliament, making its success uncertain. The bill allows border authorities to turn back asylum seekers from Russia, using force if necessary but excludes children and disabled individuals.

The Council of Europe has previously raised concerns over the rights of refugees and asylum seekers following Finland’s border closure. Dunja Mijatovic, the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed the importance of adhering to human rights obligations even in challenging border situations. She pointed out that the full closure jeopardizes the right to seek asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.

Additionally, the BBC reported that Russia is recruiting migrants, including Somalis, stranded at the border to fight in Ukraine. Some migrants are reportedly coerced into joining the Russian military in exchange for pay, medical care, and residency permits, raising alarm among human rights organizations.

Mijatovic’s letter to Finland’s Minister of Interior, Mari Rantanen, urged the Finnish government to ensure genuine access to asylum procedures and prevent pushbacks. She called for comprehensive measures to assist vulnerable individuals, noting that not all vulnerabilities are immediately apparent.


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