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FINLAND: Proposed Legislation Could Breach International Human Rights Commitments ― Frontex Extends Operation on Finland-Russia Border ― UN Urges Finland to Introduce Safeguards for Accessing Asylum Procedures

24th May 2024 | News

  • The Government has proposed new legislation that would allow border guards to push back migrants without processing their asylum applications at the Finland-Russia border despite acknowledging that by doing so it would breach its international human rights commitments.
  • The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has decided to extend its operation to support the Finnish Border Guard on the Finland-Russia border until autumn 2024.
  • The United Nations Committee against Torture has published the findings of its latest review of Finland’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and recommended that it introduces safeguards to ensure access to asylum procedures following the closure of its border with Russia.

On 21 May, the Government proposed new legislation that would allow border guards to push back migrants without processing their asylum applications at the Finland-Russia border. The proposal, which acknowledges that it would place Finland in breach of its international human rights commitments, has been justified on the grounds that it would only be applied for a limited time and under exceptional circumstances. “As this phenomenon is in Russia’s hands – who comes, where from and when, to Finland’s border – we cannot permit it. Therefore, we have to augment our legislation,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said. “Unfortunately the EU legislation does not yet provide us with effective tools to tackle the problem. I hope our work will pave the way for European level solutions,” he added. Commenting on the new proposal in an X thread, ECRE member organisation the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre highlighted that “the terms chosen for the government’s proposal, such as “tension” with international agreements, do not remove the fact that it is in clear contradiction with international law and human rights obligations binding Finland, such as the absolute ban on refoulement”. The organisation  concluded that “according to the rule of law, such a law that violates international obligations cannot be enacted. This bill cannot be accepted, as it means undermining Finland’s rule of law”.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has decided to extend its operation to support the Border Guard on the Finland-Russia border until at least autumn 2024. Frontex initially sent 50 officials to Finland in November and December 2023 to assist with an increase in the number of arrivals from Russia. Frontex’s presence has since been reduced to 26 border guards. Deputy divisional chief in the Finnish Border Guard, Marko Saareks, stated that Finland could request additional help if there was an increase in number of arrivals. Commenting on Frontex’s presence in Finland, he said:  “Most important is the symbolism, that we are not alone in this situation”.

On 10 May, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) published its report on Finland’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The CAT was concerned inter alia that the closure of Finland’s border since 30 November 2023 in response to Russia’s alleged instrumentalisation of migration might breach the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion. In its recommendations, it urged Finland to “introduce safeguards to ensure all asylum-seekers and others in need of international protection arriving at its eastern border have access to fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures and non-refoulement determinations”.

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