reported on Tuesday that the deputy chancellor of justice has stopped the government’s proposal that tightened the restrictions on the eastern border, because it would not have adequately protected the possibility of applying for asylum.
So far, it is unclear what was in the Ministry of the Interior’s proposal that would not have met the aforementioned laws and agreements.
The proposal and its justifications will probably still be edited in the Ministry of the Interior, so the preparation will continue.
Prime minister Petteri Orpo (co.) said on Monday at the Vartius border station in Kuhmo that Finland will quickly take more measures if the arrival of asylum seekers from Russia continues.
The Prime Minister, the President of the Republic and the Border Guard have stated that asylum seekers are brought to the Finnish border in an organized manner.
– The situation is under the control of the border guard at the moment regarding the eastern border, says the border security expert, major Jouni Lahtinen from the headquarters of the Border Guard.
According to Lahtinen, there have been no asylum seekers at the closed border stations in Southeast Finland and North Karelia.
If Finland closes the entire eastern border and Russia no longer takes back people who have come to the Finnish border, there is a risk that people will be stuck in the border area. Who among them bears the responsibility at that time?
1. Who takes responsibility for those stuck in the border area?
Emeritus Professor of International Law Martti Koskenniemen according to international agreements, those government authorities who can act in the situation are responsible. Regardless of whether Finland has closed the eastern border or not.
According to Koskenniemi, what responsibility means in practice is a matter for the border authorities and the government to decide. However, according to him, more important than individual agreements or their interpretation is the principle according to which a person must not be left to die if he can be saved.
– The Finnish authorities must organize the situation so that they do not freeze to that place.
Secondly, Koskenniemi refers to the European Convention on Human Rights and the interpretation practice of the European Court of Human Rights.
– If a person has fallen outside the border and his life is threatened, then the authority that can fulfill the obligation based on the human rights convention to protect life must then take measures.
Professor of welfare law and immigration law at the University of Eastern Finland Eeva Nykänen however, it is likely that Finland will take measures at some point, because it is pointless to expect Russia to take responsibility.
– If we have people in the cold and snow near the external border, and they don’t have access back to Russia, it’s hard to see any other solution than Finland helping.
However, the Finnish authorities are naturally unable to help people on the Russian side of the border, Nykänen says.
Legally, according to Nykänen, it is possible to consider whether the border situation would parallel the maritime distress of boats transporting migrants in the Mediterranean.
2. If the Finnish border authorities see cold and hungry persons near the closed border, what will be done?
Jouni Lahtinen, a border security expert at the Finnish Border Guard, emphasizes that Russia is responsible for persons who are in the territory of the Russian state.
If Finland’s border were to be closed completely and asylum seekers from Russia continued to arrive near the border, who would take responsibility for them?
Do the Finnish border authorities close their eyes if they see hungry and cold people behind the border on the Russian side?
– Of course, we see from Finland’s side what is happening on Russia’s side. We have neither the opportunity nor the authority to go to Russian territory, even if there are people there who are in a very vulnerable position, says Major Jouni Lahtinen.
– If they [turvapaikanhakijat] are in the territory of Finland, then we operate. And if they’re in the area where we have the authority to take over the particularly vulnerable, that’s how we do it.
– For all other persons, we basically advise, urge, block access and try to tell them the right routes, where to apply for asylum, for example.
3. Would closing the eastern border be possible?
Koskenniemi has an understanding for the Government’s decision to close the entire eastern border. However, he reminds us that in connection with the restriction, we have to weigh a wide range of interests and aspects, from human rights to refugee policy.
Maintaining Finland’s national security and foreign policy capability is also important.
However, according to Nykänen, closing the entire eastern border sounds like an extremely drastic measure. However, according to him, it is difficult to assess the matter because the Government bases its decisions on confidential information.
– This is intelligence information that has obviously not been made public. That’s why I can’t assess whether there are sufficient grounds for closing the entire border. Hopefully, sometime in retrospect, we will be able to assess how proportionate this action was.
4. Should international agreements be changed to prevent the instrumentalization of people?
According to Nykänen, the instrumentalization of people and migration is a real problem and tools should be found to control it. However, he does not believe that limiting the right to asylum is the right way to do this.
– It is important to note that the return ban is an absolute principle that cannot be deviated from under any circumstances.
He emphasizes that Finland has the right to protect itself in the situation of hybrid influence.
– Every state has the right to protect its own public order and national security from the malicious influence of a foreign state, but it must nevertheless be able to do so that the ban on refoulement is not violated and, on the other hand, the right to asylum is preserved.
Koskenniemi reminds that all agreements enable them to be used to promote questionable motives. According to him, “national wisdom” is required when interpreting agreements.
– When is the agreement applied according to its spirit and purpose and when is the agreement manipulated, he reflects.