Border procedure could be introduced at the Finnish border in situations of mass influx of migrants or instrumentalisation of migration
In future, the border procedure could be introduced by decision of the Government if an exceptionally large number of people were to arrive in Finland over a short period of time or if hybrid influence activities that exploit migration were directed against Finland. The Government submitted the relevant proposal for amending the Aliens Act to Parliament on 22 June. The purpose of the proposal is to make it easier to manage migrants who have made their way towards Finland. The amendments are scheduled to enter into force as soon as possible.
The border procedure would allow the processing of potentially unfounded asylum applications immediately at or near the border. This would prevent asylum applicants from travelling within Finland or from Finland to other EU countries. The border procedure could be applied if the asylum seeker has come from a safe country, for example, or submitted an application that is manifestly unfounded in some other way.
The Finnish Immigration Service should make a decision on the application within four weeks of its submission. To enable the rapid procedure, the Finnish Immigration Service could organise asylum interviews via videoconferencing or by means of some other technical solution.
“Legislation enabling the border procedure is one of the Government’s many ways to prepare for countering hybrid influence activities, in which a foreign state tries to exert pressure on Finland by means of instrumentalisation of migration. This spring, we have also increased the Border Guard’s resources for border control,” says Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen.
Applications would be thoroughly examined also in the border procedure
Each application would be examined individually, thoroughly and fairly also in the border procedure. The border procedure would not apply to vulnerable asylum seekers, such as victims of human trafficking, if, during the rapid procedure, they could not be guaranteed the special support they need in the asylum procedure.
The border procedure would apply to unaccompanied minors only if they arrive from countries of origin that are deemed safe, taking into account the best interests of the child.
“The threshold for adopting the border procedure would be high and it would not give us the right to cut corners in the asylum process. In the border procedure, too, asylum applications would be examined in such a way that a genuine right to apply for asylum would still exist. The border procedure would not exclude the right of appeal or the right to interpretation and legal aid,” says Mikkonen.
Applicants should stay within the grounds of the reception centre
The border procedure is based on EU legislation. Some of the issues related to its application need to be resolved at national level, such as restrictions on movement during the procedure and the end of the procedure.
According to the proposal, the asylum seeker would have an obligation to stay on the grounds of the reception centre assigned to them located at or near the border. As a rule, they would not, however, be detained and they could move freely within the grounds of the reception centre.
A clear end date for the procedure is important for the legal protection of the asylum seeker, as the obligation to stay within the grounds of the reception centre assigned to them would end at the same time. The proposal presents situations in which the border procedure would end.
Several legislative amendments help prepare for hybrid influence activities that exploit migration
There is a variety of different types of operative, legal, diplomatic and economic means for responding to the instrumentalisation of migration. Diplomacy is the primary means of responding when a foreign state exerts political pressure by exploiting migrants. However, legislation must be clear and the authorities must have sufficient powers to act pre-emptively and respond effectively to such influence activities.
The proposal to introduce the border procedure, which has now been submitted to Parliament, is part of legislation for normal conditions. The Emergency Powers Act is applied in emergency conditions. The proposal for amending the Emergency Powers Act, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, is currently being discussed by Parliament. It proposes adding hybrid influence activities to the list of grounds for declaring emergency conditions.
On 9 June, the Government submitted to Parliament a proposal for amending the Border Guard Act. According to the proposal, the reception of asylum applications could be centralised at separately designated border crossing points at Finland’s national border. The Government could decide to centralise the reception of applications if necessary to prevent a serious threat to public order, national security or public health arising from an exceptionally large number of people entering the country over a short period of time or from the instrumentalisation of migration.