Opposition parties call for heightened preparedness at the border

Among other assurances, the opposition wants to make sure Finland can suspend the processing of asylum applications under certain circumstances.

(From left) deputy chair of the NCP Mari-Leena Talvitie, NCP chair Kai Mykkänen, Finns Party chair Riikka Purra, chair of Movement Now Harry Harkimo and Christian Democrats chair Päivi Räsänen speaking at a press conference in Parliament House on Tuesday. Image: Lehtikuva

On Tuesday Parliamentary opposition parties formally announced they were seeking a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Sanna Marin's (SDP) coalition government, calling into question the country's preparedness to deal with hybrid threats.

The interpellation was prompted by the ongoing situation at Belarus' borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, where thousands of migrants have gathered in order to enter the European Union. According to Finland and the EU, the mass migration is a hybrid operation by Belarus in protest of EU sanctions.

According to the opposition parties, Finland is ill-prepared for a large-scale arrival of migrants. The parties include the Finns Party, the National Coalition Party, the Christian Democrats and the Movement Now party. The parties first raised the matter last week during Parliamentary question time.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the parties called for emergency clauses to be added to the Aliens Act on how Finland could suspend accepting asylum applications, and if necessary, how the country could temporarily close its borders.

"The answer that the asylum process must always be carried out is not adequate. Many EU countries have emergency clauses and other options. These countries are party to the same international agreements as Finland, so we must also have the opportunity to take asylum policy into our own hands," said Riikka Purra, leader of the Finns Party.

'Making sure Finland is prepared'

The parties' motion criticised ministers for contradictory statements about the hybrid threat, seeking clarification about the government's position.

Interior minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) has said that if a situation like the one on the Polish or Lithuanian border arises along the Finnish border, Finland should only keep a single border crossing point open to process asylum applications.

Foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) has said that current legislation already allows for Finland to close its borders due to hybrid threats.

The government has also raised the possibility of making reforms to the country's emergency laws in order to better respond to hybrid threats, but the opposition has said it wants to know what is actually being done in that regard.

The chair of the opposition National Coalition Party, Kai Mykkänen, said his party was taking part in the interpellation in order to make sure Finland is prepared.

"The interpellation is a tool that enables us to ensure that the government is reviewing the emergency legislation, as it promised it would last week. We are demanding that the government implements [the legislation] so that asylum applications can be suspended for a certain period of time in a situation where the asylum application process shifts from [people actually] seeking asylum to a way of exerting pressure on Finland," Mykkänen said.

The government survived a confidence vote about its immigration policy less than a month ago. In particular, that motion pointed to planned policy changes to the granting of asylum based on family reunification.