Article Finland: Parliament Amends Border Guard Act to Protect Against Foreign Hybrid Attacks

On July 7, 2022, the Finnish Parliament adopted legislation to amend the Border Guard Act (Rajavartiolaki 2005/578) to allow for protection against hybrid attacks, meaning nonmilitary attacks against the Finnish community from foreign governments.

Following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia and actions by Belarus, the Finnish government published a report on changes to the national security situation of Finland, noting the risk of Russia or Belarus directing asylum applicants en mass towards the Finnish border to destabilize the country. (Redogörelse om förändringarna i den säkerhetspolitiska miljön, Statsrådets publikationer 2022:19, 31.)

The amendment, as a response to these fears, is intended to limit where applications for international protection can be received and provide a last-option of closing the entire eastern border to border crossing in events of further aggression from Russia or worsening pandemic conditions.

Among other things, the law provides for the temporary closure of border crossings, restrictions on border crossings, and limiting applications for international protection at one or more border crossing stations when there is a “serious threat to public order, national security, or public health.” (§ 16 Border Guard Act, as amended.)

Specifically, the amended section 16 provides as follows:

The government may decide that a border crossing point shall be closed or that border crossing traffic shall be restricted for a certain period of time or until further notice, if the closure or restriction is necessary to avert a serious threat to public order, national security or public health. The Ministry of the Interior decides on necessary immediate measures in urgent situations before the matter is decided by the government. The Ministry of the Interior shall present its decision at the government’s general meeting without delay.

The government may decide that the application for international protection shall be centralized at one or more border crossing points at the national border in Finland, if this is necessary to avert a serious threat to public order, national security or public health and if it is a question of:

1) An exceptionally large number of incoming travelers during a short period, or

2) information or a well-founded suspicion that the entry is taking place as a result of the influence of a foreign state.

If the government has made a decision in accordance with subsection 2, international protection may be applied for at the national border in Finland only at such a border crossing point to which applications for international protection has been centralized. Exceptions to this can be made in individual cases, taking into account the rights of children, people with disabilities and other particularly vulnerable people.

Border crossing points must not be closed, border crossing traffic must not be restricted and the application for international protection must not be centralized to a greater extent than is necessary to avert a serious threat to public order, national security or public health. The decision shall be revoked when it is no longer necessary to avert the said threat. The Ministry of the Interior shall to a sufficient extent inform [the Parliament and the public] of such a decision as referred to in this section.

The measures provided for in this section shall not impede the right of Finnish citizens to enter the country or their right to leave the country or to infringe the rights of persons covered by European Union law on free movement or their right to international protection.

More detailed provisions on how an issue referred to in this section is to be dealt with, without delay, by the police, Customs, and the Border Guard may be issued by government decree. (Translation by author.)


How the law would be applied in practice is unclear. While the law provides that the Finnish government can limit the places where application for international protection can be made, it also specifically states that the provision shall not “infringe on the right of persons … to international protection.” Finland, a European Union (EU) member state, is bound by both EU law and international law on the right to apply for asylum. Members of Finland’s Parliament have previously stated that applying the new law would not infringe these rights, as it would only apply to applications that are clearly unfounded.

Special Procedure for Adopting the Law

The legislation passed during a special plenary during what is normally a summer holiday in Finland. Moreover, the law was adopted after being declared urgent, meaning a qualified majority of five-sixths of the Parliament determines that the bill needs to be urgently addressed. The law can then pass Parliament in two plenary meetings without the usual delay between votes, provided that two-thirds of the majority approve the proposal. (73 § Finnish Constitution, Suomen Perustuslaki.) The urgency clause was adopted by a vote of 103–16, and the amendment was likewise adopted by a substantial majority, with only one member of parliament, Ano Turtiainen, voting against. The law comes on the heels of the Finnish Parliament’s decision to apply for NATO membership, citing changes in the security and operating environment of Europe.

Amendment to Alien Act

As part of its effort to improve the Finnish government’s ability to react to hybrid attacks, where migration is used as a tool against Finland’s security, the Finnish government has also proposed changes to the Alien Act (Ulkomaalaislaki). These amendments would, among other things, create a process for denying clearly unfounded asylum applications on the spot at the border without releasing the applicant into Finland when there is an exceptionally large group of applicants present at the border. It would also allow for video interviews as part of the asylum application process, which is currently not permitted under the Alien Act.

That amendment has not yet passed but is currently under review by the Administration Committee.

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Finland: Parliament Amends Border Guard Act to Protect Against Foreign Hybrid Attacks. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-14/finland-parliament-amends-border-guard-act-to-protect-against-foreign-hybrid-attacks/.

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(2022) Finland: Parliament Amends Border Guard Act to Protect Against Foreign Hybrid Attacks. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-14/finland-parliament-amends-border-guard-act-to-protect-against-foreign-hybrid-attacks/.

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Finland: Parliament Amends Border Guard Act to Protect Against Foreign Hybrid Attacks. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-14/finland-parliament-amends-border-guard-act-to-protect-against-foreign-hybrid-attacks/>.