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Parliament approves border law change to thwart hybrid attacks

The move allows Finland to limit or shut down border entry points entirely in exceptional circumstances.

Finnish Parliament. The interior ministry announced the border law change plans in March. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finnish MPs on Thursday approved changes to the country's border laws that will enable authorities to shut down borders or limit the number of border crossing points during exceptional circumstances.

The change aims to protect the country from hybrid attacks that could potentially be aimed at its eastern border with Russia. Poland and Baltic countries were in a similar situation last year, when Belarus orchestrated a large number of migrants to try to enter the EU.

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.

The interior ministry announced the amendment plans in March.

However, MPs did not vote on the matter because a counter motion made by MP Ano Turtiainen (VKK) did not receive enough support.

Discussions and committees

The legislation change did raise a good deal of discussion in Parliament, however.

Earlier this week, MPs including Veronika Honkasalo from the Left Alliance and Eva Biaudet from the Swedish People's Party said they wanted the draft legislation to be sent back to the Constitutional Law Committee, but the move was unsuccessful.

Honkasalo suggested that the legislation, as written, could be in violation of international law.

On Thursday, veteran NCP MP Ben Zyskowicz strongly defended the change.

"With this law we are trying to send a message that using people as a tool — as we saw attempted on the border between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania — would not succeed in Finland," Zyskowicz said.

NCP MP Ben Zyskowicz Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

He said that the Constitutional Law Committee had found "no legal obstacle to decide on the number of border crossing points or their location."

The central point of a report by the Administration Committee suggested that the reception of asylum applicants can be placed in locations other than on Finland's eastern border, in the event that Russia uses refugees as means of hybrid influence, like Belarus did last year.

The Administration Committee deals with matters including the Border Guard; state, regional and local administration; immigration affairs and several others.

MPs also greenlit legislation that the country's Emergency Powers Act could be taken into force urgently during the government's remaining term.