Finland Proposes Emergency Law to Block Asylum Seekers at Russian Border

Finland’s Constitutional Law Committee has proposed legislation that would turn away asylum seekers coming across its eastern frontier

Finland’s Constitutional Law Committee has approved a draft emergency law that would block asylum seekers from entering the country across the border with Russia, Finnish media outlets reported on Tuesday.

Finland, which joined NATO last year, closed its eastern land border in November after more than 1,300 asylum seekers – primarily from Africa and the Middle East – reportedly crossed over from Russian territory during a four-month period.

In response to the jump in arrivals, the ruling coalition proposed a draft law that would allow border guards to turn back migrants trying to enter from Russia without processing their asylum applications. Critics of the bill argued that such a measure would be in breach of the country’s international human rights commitments.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Law Committee ruled that the legislation can be enacted as an “exceptional law,” according to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

The committee admitted that although the draft document conflicts with Finland’s binding human rights obligations, it is necessary due to “serious danger” to “the rule of law and national security” of the country, the newspaper wrote. The draft law was approved by a vote of 15-2, according to the outlet.

The committee’s decision was “based on classified information that cannot be shared publicly,” one of its members told the Helsingin Sanomat.

The bill would allow the border authorities to turn back asylum seekers from Russia with or without force, although it would not apply to children or disabled people.

The two committee members who voted against the draft law, Fatim Diarra of the Green Party and Anna Kontula of the Left Alliance, both Finnish MPs, argued that enacting such a law would contradict international agreements.

To take effect, the bill has to pass with a five-sixths majority in the parliament and be signed off on by the president.