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Parliamentary committee recommends closure of eastern border in exceptional cases

The proposed changes to the Border Guard Act would be precautionary measures to deal with the threat of hybrid influencing.

File photo. Image: Annu Passoja / Yle

Parliament's Administration Committee has proposed making changes to the Border Guard Act, which could be brought into effect under exceptional circumstances.

The provisions include allowing the restriction of crossing at certain border points as well as concentrating asylum applications to one crossing only.

In a press release announcing the findings, the committee said that the conclusions of the report were accepted unanimously by the members.

The committee had been tasked with suggesting ways that Finland could prepare for and prevent hybrid influencing at the nation's borders.

Such hybrid tactics could include a foreign state diverting large numbers of asylum seekers to Finland's border, similar to the situation on the border between Poland and Belarus in November 2021 — which prompted Finland to consider making changes to current laws.

The possibility of restricting border crossings and centralising asylum applications has been seen as a priority against the backdrop of the changed security situation since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Committee: Proposals send "clear message"

Committee chair and leader of the Finns Party Riikka Purra told Yle that the committee wanted to clarify the articles and justifications of the government's proposal regarding the closure of the border and the centralisation of asylum applications.

She added that if the provisions were used, asylum applications could only be submitted at a designated, centralised border crossing point, for example Helsinki Airport.

"In such situations, it would be impossible to seek asylum via the eastern border," she said.

"In the case of individual people in very vulnerable positions, such as children or people with disabilities, discretion would of course be exercised. This is what the border guards are doing at the moment."

The committee's press release emphasised that asylum applications would only be concentrated in one place if such a move was considered necessary to prevent a serious threat.

Committee member and MP Eveliina Heinäluoma (SDP) told Yle that the amendments are intended to send a clear message: no pressure will be exerted on Finland through hybrid influencing.

"This also sends out a pre-emptive message that it is not worth engaging in such hybrid influencing measures in the first place. We do not want any human being or any completely innocent party to fall victim to Russia's meddling," Heinäluoma said.