Finnish border guards with a dog in the forest by a lake

Finland: Emergency law on migration is a “green light for violence and pushbacks at the border”

Regarding the Finnish Government’s proposal for an emergency law on the so-called “instrumentalization” of migration, defined in the text as actions by “states or other actors” to facilitate irregular migration movements into another country in an attempt to destabilize it, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, Eve Geddie said:

“This law gravely undermines access to asylum and the protection from refoulement in Finland. It risks serving as a green light for violence and pushbacks at the border.”

In so-called “instrumentalization” situations, the law empowers the authorities to limit the reception of asylum applications in specific parts of the Finnish border, granting them powers to prevent entry, including by force. Under certain circumstances, authorities can even refrain from assessing people’s individual circumstances altogether, in breach of the non-derogable principle of non-refoulement.

Often described as “pushbacks”, the unlawful practice of summary and violent returns at the border, are increasingly used in different European countries to prevent people in need of protection from reaching their borders. 

The law allows Finnish border guards to make exceptions in cases involving people they consider to be in vulnerable situations or those at risk of serious violations upon return to the country where they crossed from. However, assessing people’s situations and vulnerabilities requires specially trained personnel as well as adequate time. It is highly questionable that such an assessment would be possible in the context of brief interactions with border officials. 

The proposed law offers no real possibility of appeal, only allowing those affected to file an administrative complaint, which would not suspend the return.

These powers appear to be inconsistent with both existing EU legislation, and the recently agreed EU Crisis and Force Majeure Regulation.

“We have European and international law standards for a reason: the principle of non-refoulement must always be upheld and claims of serious human rights violations upon return require rigorous scrutiny, regardless of how people have reached the territory”, said Geddie.

“This proposal would endanger the rights of people seeking safety and could lead to arbitrariness and violence at the border. Finland should reject this attack on its core constitutional values and the rule of law, and urgently restore conditions to manage borders humanely and in respect of its international obligations.”

Finland’s proposal follows in the dangerous footsteps of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where numerous policies and practices have been introduced in breach of human rights law in the name of tackling so-called “instrumentalization” attempts, since 2021.


This legislative proposal is part of a series of recent measures proposed by the Finnish Government that curtail the rights of asylum seekers and migrants, presented as a response to an increase in the number of people crossing into Finland from Russia to seek asylum since last September.

Since November, Finland has gradually closed all eastern border crossing points with Russia. In April, the closure was extended indefinitely. Only two people have crossed the border to seek asylum between February and mid-May, according to official data.

UNHCR and others have raised concerns over Finland’s response lacking alignment with EU and international law while the United Nations Human Rights Committee highlighted “the risks of penalization, detention and refoulement faced by asylum-seekers” in Russia.