Finland's proposed ban on asylum via Russia should be rejected, ombudsman says


  • World
  • Thursday, 30 May 2024

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's parliament should reject proposed laws that would prevent migrants arriving across the long, forested border with Russia from seeking asylum, the Nordic country's non-discrimination ombudsman said on Thursday.

The government last week proposed emergency legislation allowing border guards to push back migrants trying to cross the 1,340-km (830-mile) frontier.

Finland believes Moscow is promoting the crossings in retaliation for Helsinki joining NATO, which backs Ukraine against Russia's invasion. The Kremlin denies the allegation.

Finland's government has itself said the proposed legislation would be in breach of the country's asylum commitments, but that the situation requires tough measures.

It remains uncertain whether the law will obtain the required five-sixths majority in a plenary vote of parliament, a high bar reflecting the fundamental principles at stake.

"There are alternatives to the unconstitutional border security law... The commissioner does not support the adoption of the bill," the non-discrimination ombudsman wrote in a note to parliament.

In practice, the proposed law would make it possible for people to be forced out of Finland in uncertain and dangerous situations, the ombudsman said.

The Finnish prime minister's office and the interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Finland closed crossing points on the border in December after more than 1,300 migrants from third nations including Syria and Somalia had arrived in preceding months.

But a few dozen migrants have still managed to get across and Helsinki fears those numbers will grow in the summer months.

Finnish laws already include options to establish organising centres where migrants' applications can be processed, and the European Union has also approved crisis regulation, due to come into force in 2026, the ombudsman said.

"The (EU's) crisis decree provides for responding to instrumentalised immigration while respecting the ban on return, even though the decree also contains challenges from a human rights perspective," ombudsman Kristina Stenman said.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto and Terje Solsvik; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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