Closed gates outside the Vaalimaa border-crossing point in Virolahti, Eastern Finland, on 18 March 2024. The Finnish government has unveiled a bill for a special act that would enable it to temporarily deny the right of migrants to apply for international protection at or in the vicinity of the border. (Lauri Heino – Str / Lehtikuva)

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THREE OFFICIALS from the Finnish Border Guard have levelled serious criticism at the special act the government is looking to enact in an attempt to discourage the weaponisation of migrants on the eastern border of Finland, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

A statement issued by the official argues that the act would violate the foundations of the forms of state, constitutional order and rule-of-law principles in Finland.

It would also result in situations where border officers have to act in violation of their official duty.

“The obvious conflicts between the bill and other binding pieces of legislation that regulate the actions of officers will result in situations where the official interpreting and enforcing the act cannot in practice avoid violating their official duty,” the trio wrote, fundamentally arguing that officers would expose themselves to criminal charges by interpreting and enforcing the act.

The authors viewed that it is “fairly certain” that applying the proposed special act would lead to violations of absolute basic and human rights. Also certain is that the act would “in all probability” fail to stop Russia from utilising migrants as an instrument of its political ambitions at the border with Finland.

The statement was signed on behalf of subordinates by Martti Ant-Wuorinen, Tuire Metso and Silja Hallenberg from the Finnish Border Guard. Ant-Wuorinen and Metso are deputy chiefs at the legal division and Hallenberg the chief of the legal services division. They report to Sanna Palo, the chief of the legal division at the Finnish Border Guard.

Palo headed the task force that devised the bill.

The bill would enable the government to temporarily suspend the right of people to seek international protection at and in the immediate vicinity of borders. During such a suspension, border officers would have the authority to remove people from Finnish soil.

Sakari Melander, a professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki, said to Helsingin Sanomat last week that the legal concerns identified by the officials are significant. Enacting the bill, he gauged, would be very problematic already from the viewpoint of the legal protection of border officers.

“A violation of official duty can also be based on a violation of basic and human rights. On the one hand, officers would have to comply with the possible special act; on the other, they’d simultaneously have to comply with basic and human rights obligations.”

“Judging by the statement, border officers would be put in an unreasonable situation.”

The principle of non-refoulement is laid down in a number of binding international treaties, decreeing that no one must be denied entry or deported if they are under the threat of death penalty, persecution, torture or other treatment that is inhumane or violates human dignity. The principle is an absolute basic and human right that cannot be violated in any circumstances.

The Finnish constitution does not allow for the enactment of laws that violate binding human rights obligations. Also the border control act states specifically that border officers must respect basic and human rights and, when carrying out their duties, invariably choose the course of action that best promotes the realisation of said rights.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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