Helsinki’s parliament has passed legislation calling for beefed-up security along its 1,340-kilometer boundary with Russia
Finland’s parliament has approved new security measures along the country’s border with Russia, passing legislation that will allow for barriers to be built and for the country to suspend or restrict migrant traffic under “exceptional circumstances.”
The bill was passed on Thursday, reflecting heightened security concerns amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict and fears of retaliation from Moscow after Finland applied to join NATO. Proponents of the legislation have cited a migrant crisis late last year that prompted Poland to build a wall along its border with Belarus.
“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,” Finnish MP Ben Zyskowicz said on Thursday.
If Russia were to instigate a similar refugee influx along its frontier with Finland, the bill would allow the Finnish government to funnel all asylum seekers to a centralized processing point, such as an airport. The bill passed by a supermajority, meaning parliament will be able to fast-track the new border tactics.
Critics of the legislation had raised the concern that it might violate international treaties, including EU directives on asylum seekers. However, a proposal to return the bill to a parliamentary committee for re-examination was rejected by a 103-16 margin on Monday.
Finland and neighboring Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO in May, citing security concerns raised by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Both countries have long histories of neutrality, but public opposition to joining the Western military bloc waned after Russia launched its military offensive in Ukraine in February.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out last month that if NATO forces and infrastructure are placed in Finland or Sweden, “we will be forced to respond tit-for-tat, and create the same threats for the territories we are threatened from. This is obvious. Do they not understand it? Everything was fine before between us, but now there will be tension, of course, I repeat, if we are threatened.”