Finland must reject deportation bill aimed at stopping migration: Human rights chief

Draft law raises ‘significant human rights concerns,’ says Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights

Leila Nezirevic  | 18.06.2024 - Update : 18.06.2024
Finland must reject deportation bill aimed at stopping migration: Human rights chief


The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O'Flaherty, has urged the Finnish government to reject a bill aimed at stopping “instrumentalized” migration, saying the draft legislation raises several significant “human rights concerns," local media reported Monday.

Helsinki introduced a draft law that would enable it to stop migrants coming from Russia to its eastern border and from seeking asylum in what it says could be a basis for a European-level solution.

If the bill passes, the government could decide to block the entry of asylum seekers on its border and deport them to a place where “applications for international protection are accepted,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo recently told reporters.

Last Tuesday, the government announced that the bill has been given to parliament for consideration.

The law proposal would need the support of five-sixths of MPs and would be in force for a one-year period and once backed by lawmakers, would enable Finland to open border checkpoints on the European Union’s and NATO’s longest frontier with Russia, according to national broadcaster YLE.

Since last November, Finnish authorities have reputedly accused Moscow of carrying out a suspected "hybrid attack" and purposefully assisting undocumented migrants in crossing into the Nordic country, which Russia denied.

Following the accusations, the border crossing points on the land between Finland and Russia remain closed until further notice.

O'Flaherty said the proposed legislation "raises a number of significant human rights concerns, including with regard to the principle of non-refoulment, collective expulsion and effective remedies, among others," YLE reported.

The commissioner emphasized that the bill relies on national security grounds, but he also pointed out that "such grounds can never be invoked to justify refoulment."

"While member states are given a certain margin of appreciation with regard to the restriction of certain rights on grounds of national security, invocation of national security cannot be used as a carte blanche," O'Flaherty was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.

The human rights chief also warned that if Helsinki was to adopt the draft law, it would set a precedent for other countries, "including those with a less developed practice of upholding human rights."

In a letter sent to the government, he asked Finnish MPs not to adopt the bill and to instead deal with the issue of instrumentalized migration by engaging with domestic and international partners, according to YLE.

Last month, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) criticized Helsinki’s deportation law, which it said would set a dangerous precedent.

The UNHCR warned that preventing people seeking international protection from entering the country violates refugee and human rights rules.

"As we have witnessed at several European borders, pushback procedures put people at risk, too often leading to serious injuries or even death," Philippe Leclerc, the UNHCR's Regional Director for Europe, said in a press release.

Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with Russia and has eight official border crossings, became the 31st member of NATO in April last year, ending decades of military non-alignment as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, 2022.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.