EU Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović expressed concern about the human rights of asylum seekers after parliament amended Section 16 of the Border Guard Act. The amendment allows Finland, in emergency cases, to close the border and severely restrict the rights of asylum seekers to seek refuge.
I still don’t understand how Finland can close all the border crossings and keep one open: the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. How are refugees supposed to get to the airport? By plane?
Another big question looming over the law is what would trigger such a draconian measure and under what circumstances. How can border guards ensure that the rights of vulnerable people seeking refuge aren’t breached?
Writes Mijatović to Finland’s Minister of Interior Krista Mikkonen: “I also want to highlight the situation of people who may need to flee the Russian Federation through the Finnish border, including those who might be persecuted on grounds related to their opposition to the war in Ukraine, their sexual orientation or gender identity, their work on human rights or other grounds. It is crucial that specific attention is paid to the needs of this group, which could be particularly affected by the proposed measures.”
One of the critics of the amendment, European Union Institute professor of international law and human rights Martin Scheinin, said the new law would send Finland back thirty years.
Scheinin’s claim does not surprise me. Before EU membership in 1995 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland had little regard for human rights. Membership in the Council of Europe was impossible because of that body’s outspoken view of human rights violations in the USSR.
Back then, Finland considered human rights a thorn in its Helsinki-Moscow special relationship.
The amendment to the Border Guard Act is a sign of cowardice and how parliament, especially parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), and others, succumb to nationalism and fear-mongering.
Even if Finnish politicians feel that the amendment was a victory against aggression by Russia, it is a blow to human rights, fairness, and the rule of international law.