Heikki Vestman (NCP), the chairperson of the Constitutional Law Committee, was surrounded by reporters in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Friday, 5 July 2024. The committee had just finalised its second statement on a much-discussed government bill for measures to combat instrumentalised migration, ruling by a vote of 15–2 that the bill can be enacted as a limited derogation to the constitution. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE PARLIAMENT’S Constitutional Law Committee on Friday unveiled its second statement on a government bill for a border security act, reiterating its view that the much-disputed act can be enacted as a temporary special act.

The statement was approved by a vote of 15 for and 2 against, with Fatim Diarra (Greens) and Anna Kontula (LA) appending a dissenting opinion.

The Constitutional Law Committee re-examined the bill after it had been amended by the Parliament’s Administration Committee.

“With these amendments by the Administration Committee, the bill can be processed in accordance with the procedure set forth in section 73 of the constitution as a limited derogation of the constitution,” Heikki Vestman (NCP), the chairperson of the Constitutional Law Committee, stated to YLE on Friday.

The Constitutional Law Committee also asked the Administration Committee to make two further adjustments to the final bill: one pertaining to information used to re-assess the cases of migrants and the other to the criteria for entering applicants into the asylum procedure after a re-assessment.

Vestman said to the public broadcasting company that the committee believes the official conducting the re-assessment should have access to all available information and should be able to use his or her discretion to determine what information is relevant for the decision.

“For this reason, the committee concluded that the Administration Committee should revise the provision prohibiting border officials from taking new information into account in the re-assessment,” he told.

The bill was sent back to the Administration Committee at the behest of the Social Democratic Party. With the Green League and Left Alliance voicing their reservations about the bill, the opposition party is in a position to decide the fate of the bill.

Some of its members have confirmed they intend to vote against the bill.

“We can’t unilaterally reject international treaties and willingly violate our EU commitments,” Timo Harakka (SDP) stated to YLE on Wednesday. “Unfortunately this bill won’t improve security in a way that’d prevent attacks to Finland by the terrorist state that’s Russia – or even curb them significantly.”

Members of Parliament have to declare the bill as urgent by a five-sixths majority and pass it by a two-thirds majority.

The Administration Committee asked the Constitutional Law Committee earlier last week to re-examine a section of the bill related to the right of migrants who have been denied entry to appeal against the decision.

The bill is designed to provide the government with additional tools to respond to influence campaigns that utilise migrants in an attempt to destabilise Finland, such as that staged last autumn by Russia. It would enable the government to respond to such campaigns by temporarily suspending the reception of asylum applications in designated areas of the national border and authorising border guards to turn away migrants they deem not to be in need of international protection.

Legal experts have widely warned that the bill violates the constitution, EU law and international human rights obligations, expressing their dismay at the position taken by the Constitutional Law Committee.

The bill has drawn criticism also from opposition lawmakers, international organisations, senior border guard officials and the research community.

The Administration Committee will convene to discuss the bill on today, making a final vote possible later this week.

The Social Democratic Party was demanding that the bill be revised to, among other things, consolidate the role of parliament in invoking the act and clarify the provisions regarding the right to appeal. Chairperson Antti Lindtman has stated that the opposition party is satisfied with the revisions made by the Administration Committee.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT