Finland parliament to vote on controversial Russia border migration law: PM News
kallerna, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Finland parliament to vote on controversial Russia border migration law: PM

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo announced on Sunday plans to introduce a draft law introducing temporary measures to combat instrumentalized migration at the Finnish-Russian border, in an interview with Finnish media. The controversial law which potentially breaches international law commitments on asylum, will be proposed later this week.

The draft law was initially proposed earlier this year and sent out for comments in March. This week, the proposal will be assessed in the Finnish parliament and submitted for review to the Constitutional Committee. The act’s purpose is to ensure an effective and temporary response to instrumentalized migration at the Finnish-Russian border. Instrumentalized migration, as defined in the EU’s Schengen Borders Code is “a situation in which a third country or non-state actor encourages or facilitates the movement of third-country nationals towards the EU’s external borders or to a member state in order to destabilize the EU or a member state.” To combat this issue, limiting open crossing points at the EU’s external borders is possible.

Finland closed its border with Russia last year to limit the number of arrivals from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia and has accused Russia of instrumentalizing migration against both Finland and the EU, an allegation Russia has denied. The shared border between the two countries has become a crucial external border for both the EU and NATO since 2023. Additionally, Finland has signed a bilateral defense pact with the US government.​​

The restriction of Finland’s eastern border dates back to 2023, when instrumentalized migration began, according to a government press release. The border was temporarily closed in November 2023 but later reopened. At the end of the year all crossing points on Finland’s eastern border were officially shut down until further notice. The closure was enacted under Section 16 of the Finnish Border Guard Act allowing the government to close border crossing point for a fixed period of time or until further notice to protect public order, national security or public health. Open border crossings via air and water traffic have remained possible, including for those seeking to apply for international protection. Moreover, the land border will remain open for persons not falling within the scope of instrumentalized migration and for migrants who are children or disabled.

Since the border’s closure, migration has effectively ceased. However, information collected by governmental authorities suggests that the phenomenon will likely continue if Finland reopens its borders. The proposed draft law consequently aims to restrict the reception of applications for international protection in the area limited to Finland’s eastern border and authorize border agents to block migrants and asylum seekers from entering at the border. All persons would then be returned to Russia without having their asylum applications processed, using force if necessary. This contrasts with Finland’s international human rights commitments, but the government has emphasized the limited and temporary nature of these measures.

The draft law will be proposed later this week, although its success is uncertain due to a high threshold for passage in parliament and significant political opposition.