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Article Finland: Government Proposes Legislation to Stem "Instrumentalized Migration"

On May 21, 2024, the Finnish Government sent a proposal for new border legislation, the Act on Temporary Measures to Combat Instrumentalized Migration, to the Finnish parliament. The proposal includes provisions and measures meant to stem “instrumentalized migration”—specifically, Russia’s direction of large numbers of asylum-seekers to the border to influence Finland’s security and social stability―and to combat foreign states’ influence over Finland.  

Background

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Finland joining NATO in 2023, Finland saw exponential growth in the number of asylum seekers at its eastern border. The government considered this to be part of a hybrid attack by Russia, causing the government to close the entire land border with Russia in November 2023, and extending the closure regularly, most recently on April 4, 2024, until further notice. (Ministry of the Interior, Government Decision SM/2024/19.)

The government argues that because of the nature of the hybrid threat from Russia, Finland must adopt legislative tools to ensure its sovereignty and national security. Specifically, the Minister for the Interior, Mari Rantanen, stated during the parliamentary debate on the proposal that

[t]he Finnish Constitutional State must be able to protect itself against external threats. That is why we present this legislation which enables the border authority to act at the border and also fight such threats through the use of the law. By protecting the national security and sovereignty, we protect both EU’s and NATO’s long eastern border.

Because the law would limit rights protected under the Finnish Constitution, it must be approved by special procedure. The Finnish Constitution provides that exemptions from the constitution can be made if the issue is determined to be urgent by five-sixths of the members of parliament. The legislative proposal must then be approved by two-thirds of the voting members of parliament. (73 § Finnish Constitution (Suomen perustuslaki (11.6.1999/731)).)

The law, if adopted, would allow the Finnish government to close a border crossing or area to asylum seekers for up to one month, and send asylum seekers found in Finland to specific asylum processing centers. The law has been described as push-back legislation similar to laws adopted by Baltic states in response to Russian hybrid campaigns where asylum seekers are directed en masse to disrupt the normal procedures of nation states.

In its proposal, the Finnish government concedes that sending asylum seekers back without properly assessing their asylum claim likely violates Finland’s international obligations, including its obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention. Nevertheless, the Finnish government argues that the legislation is necessary, and that the permissibility of the proposed measures has never been determined when they are conducted as a direct response to hybrid warfare.

Text of the Proposal

Section 3 of the proposed law provides that

[t]he Prime Minister and Cabinet may decide to limit the receipt of applications for international protection at a specified part of the Finnish national border and in its immediate vicinity for up to one at a time, if the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister have jointly established that there is information or reasonable suspicion that a foreign state is trying to influence Finland by using immigration, the impact seriously endangers Finland’s sovereignty or national security, the restriction is necessary to secure Finland’s sovereignty or national security, and no other means are sufficient to secure Finland’s sovereignty or national security.

A decision according to subsection 1 does not limit the receipt of applications for international protection elsewhere than in the area to which the decision refers.

The receipt of applications for international protection may not be restricted to a greater extent or for a longer period of time than is necessary to prevent Finland’s sovereignty or national security from being seriously endangered. The general meeting of the Government must regularly, in cooperation with the authorities, assess the content and scope of the decision based on how the situation develops. The decision must be revoked when the decision is no longer necessary for the purpose specified in subsection 1. The Ministry of the Interior must provide sufficient information about decisions referred to in this paragraph. (3 § Act on Temporary Measures to Combat Instrumentalized Migration, as proposed, in Finnish at https://perma.cc/E57H-KYV4.)

 

In addition, the law provides that persons who are used by a foreign government or other similar entity as tools for hybrid influence, and who are located in an area referred to in section 3, above, must be prevented from entering the country. If such persons are found inside Finland, they may be relocated to a place where applications for international protection are accepted. While the law provides that decisions to remove a person from the country must be made in writing, they are not appealable. (Id. 4 §.)

The law provides exemptions for children, disabled persons, and persons who “obviously face a real risk of death, torture, or other treatment that violates human dignity in the state [i.e. Russia] from which the person has arrived into Finland.” (Id. 5 §.)

If adopted, the temporary law would enter into force as soon as possible and be in force for one year from that date. (Id. 7 §.)

The legislation was discussed in parliament on May 22, 2024, after which, per parliamentary procedure, the proposal was sent to the parliamentary Administration Committee for review. Moreover, the parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee will provide the Administration Committee with a report before the parliament votes on the legislation. Thus a date for a parliamentary vote on the legislation has not yet been set.

Elin Hofverberg, Law Library of Congress
June 6, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Finland: Government Proposes Legislation to Stem "Instrumentalized Migration". 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-06-05/finland-government-proposes-legislation-to-stem-instrumentalized-migration/.

APA citation style:

Hofverberg, E. (2024) Finland: Government Proposes Legislation to Stem "Instrumentalized Migration". [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-06-05/finland-government-proposes-legislation-to-stem-instrumentalized-migration/.

MLA citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Finland: Government Proposes Legislation to Stem "Instrumentalized Migration". 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-06-05/finland-government-proposes-legislation-to-stem-instrumentalized-migration/>.