Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, spoke during a question-time debate in parliament on Thursday, 14 March 2024. Andersson on Friday told Helsingin Sanomat that the opposition party is not prepared to back the newly published government bill that would, in effect, delegate the responsibility to assess asylum claims to individual border officials. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE LEFT ALLIANCE will not support the special government act that would enable border officials to deny entry to asylum applicants and significantly restrict the reception of asylum applications in some border areas, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

Also the Green League on Friday expressed its reservations about the possibility of violating international treaties.

While the Centre and Social Democratic Party welcomed the bill as necessary, they both stopped short of promising their unreserved support for the bill in parliament. The government unveiled the bill on Friday, outlining its intention to pass the bill as urgent with the support of five-sixths parliamentary majority.

The bill is a response to what is an apparent hybrid influence campaign by Russia. Russian authorities have since last autumn allowed, if not directly helped, hundreds of asylum seekers to the border.

Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Friday that the opposition party cannot support the bill with the information presently at its disposal on the border situation, viewing that the government has not provided sufficient details on the security threat it has cited to justify the drastic approach.

“If the measures that’ve been introduced so far have been in the grey area, so to speak, the government is now clearly drafting regulation that both the officialdom and political leadership recognise is in tension with our human rights obligations and constitution,” she said.

Finland, she highlighted, has liked to profile itself as a proponent of human rights and rule of law on the international stage.

“I think it’s absolutely clear that this will have far-reaching consequences for respect for human rights in Finland – if you start thinking that they aren’t something you have to hold on to but something you can deviate from,” cautioned Andersson.

She described the act as a pushback act.

Andersson reminded that the asylum process has been designed to assess whether a person has been subjected to treatment that is inhumane or violates human dignity. Such assessments often require assistance from experts and interpreters.

“The starting point here is that an individual border official should personally be able to make an assessment like this during a brief encounter at the border,” she noted. “This would be an absolutely horrendous situation for those individual officials.”

The Green League is principally very critical about the prospect of not complying with international treaties, said Atte Harjanne, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group.

“I consider it necessary that the government is weighing up how to put a stop to to this Russian hybrid influence and do so without losing sight of what we are as a liberal democracy that supports rules-based international order,” he said, expressing concern about the ability to understand the distress of the migrants leveraged by Russia.

Tytti Tuppurainen, the chairperson of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group, stated that the opposition party recognises the unusually serious situation caused by the hybrid campaign but cannot at this point grant its unlimited support for the government bill.

“We think it’s good that the government has started working on this kind of a bill because Finland must always have proportionate tools to combat attempts to exert pressure,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.

“At the same time, you have to recognise that this is a highly unusual draft bill and, also for that reason, you have to carefully examine the feedback it receives from experts especially from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice – but also elsewhere,” she said.

“It’s the government’s duty to draw up a bill that also passes the constitutional law committee’s scrutiny.”

The drafting of the bill alone will hopefully send a signal to the other side of the border, commented Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre. She added that although the legislative process will likely be complex and complicated from the viewpoint of the constitution and international treaties, it alone is not a reason not to draft the bill.

Hopefully, she said, lawmakers “find a way to pass the bill in a way that aligns with our rule-of-law state”.

She also called attention to the legal protection of individual border officials, stressing that the act must be unambiguous enough to leave as little room for interpretation in regards to the actions of border officials.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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