Finland proposes new law to stem migration from Russia

By Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finland's government proposed emergency legislation on Tuesday to block asylum seekers entering across its vast and often snow-bound border with Russia which it believes Moscow is promoting due to political antagonism since the Ukraine war.

Finland shut the 1,340 km (830 mile) frontier last year after increased arrivals from countries including Syria and Somalia soon after Helsinki joined transatlantic alliance NATO that backs Ukraine against President Vladimir Putin's army.

The Kremlin denies weaponising migration, saying the West is engaged in a smear campaign.

Only a few dozen migrants have arrived from Russia through the wilderness this year since Finland shut its land crossings, compared to 1,300 last year, Border Guard data showed.

But Finnish leaders say the law is still needed as warmer weather makes travel easier and Russia potentially encourages that. Some of the migrants had student visas in Russia.

"It is the government's duty to ensure the security of the borders, Finland and Finns in all situations," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a news conference.

"Unfortunately the EU legislation does yet not provide us with effective tools to tackle the problem. I hope our work will pave the way for European level solutions."


The draft law proposed by the right-wing coalition acknowledges that turning migrants back without processing asylum applications would breach Finland's international rights commitments. But it would be temporary and only activated in exceptional circumstances, Orpo said.

Finland's eastern border is the longest that both the EU and NATO have with Russia. Helsinki wants the EU to allow for exceptions when a member country is being targeted with migrants to destabilise its society.

So-called pushback practices by other European countries such as Poland, Hungary, Italy and Greece have been condemned in various judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

The legislation will need five sixths of votes in Finland's parliament, and success is not certain.

The bill would allow border authorities to turn back asylum seekers from Russia with or without force. But it would not apply to children and disabled people.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto, editing by Terje Solsvik and Andrew Cawthorne)