Asylum seekers coming from Russia been transported to Joutseno Reception Centre at the Nuijamaa border station between Russia and Finland in Lappeenranta, Finland. LEHTIKUVA

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Amnesty International has raised strong concerns over the Finnish government's proposed emergency law targeting the "instrumentalization" of asylum seekers. Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International's EU Office, has warned that the legislation severely undermines the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum in Finland.

"This law significantly weakens protections against forced returns and the right to seek asylum in Finland. It risks becoming a green light for violence and pushbacks at the border," Geddie stated.

The proposed law empowers authorities to limit the acceptance of asylum applications at certain border sections in "instrumentalization scenarios." It also allows the use of force to prevent entry without assessing individuals' specific circumstances, which contradicts the non-refoulement principle.

The law specifies that border guards can accept asylum applications in exceptional cases, particularly for individuals deemed vulnerable or at risk of severe human rights violations if returned. However, proper assessment requires trained personnel, adequate time, and appropriate facilities, which are unlikely to be available in brief interactions with border authorities.

Additionally, the proposed law does not provide a genuine appeal mechanism, offering only the possibility of an administrative complaint that would not halt the deportation process.

The authority granted to border guards contradicts Finland's constitution, international human rights norms, EU law, and the newly adopted EU Asylum and Migration Crisis Regulation. "We have European and international legal standards for a reason: non-refoulement must always be observed, and allegations of serious human rights violations must be thoroughly investigated before anyone can be returned," Geddie emphasized.

Pushbacks, or the illegal forced returns of individuals at borders without assessing their individual circumstances, often involve violence. Finland's proposed emergency law mirrors the dangerous precedents set by Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland since 2021, where numerous practices violating international human rights treaties have been adopted under the guise of combating "instrumentalization."

This proposal is part of a series of recent measures by the Finnish government to restrict the rights of asylum seekers and immigrants, prompted by an increase in asylum seekers from Russia last fall. Since November, Finland has progressively closed all border crossing points on the eastern border. Official reports indicate that only two people crossed the border to seek asylum between February and mid-May.

The UNHCR and other organizations have expressed concerns that Finland's actions are not compliant with EU and international law. The UN Human Rights Committee has highlighted the risks faced by asylum seekers in Russia, including punitive measures, detention, and forced returns, which violate the non-refoulement principle.

As Finland moves forward with this legislation, Amnesty International and other human rights advocates urge the government to reject measures that compromise fundamental rights and international commitments, and to maintain humane and lawful border management practices.

HT

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