Eastern border closure worries EC Human Rights Commissioner

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The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović expressed concern over the situation of asylum seekers following closure of all border crossing points at eastern border on November 30.

Mijatović in a letter recently sent to Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen also requested information to know whether and how individuals who arrive at the Eastern border are being assisted in order to exercise this right.

“I expressed my concern about the human rights risks presented by a bill (subsequently passed) amending Section 16 of the Border Guard Act, which allows the government to restrict access to the border and to concentrate applications for international protection at one or more border crossing points under certain circumstances. In particular, I emphasised the need for specific safeguards to be put in place, in order to ensure that the rights of people arriving at Finland’s borders remain adequately protected in the event that such measures are implemented,” the Commissioner wrote pointing out the situation and government measures, adding that provision now forms the basis of the decisions to restrict and subsequently close the Eastern land border.

Mijatović, however, said she understood that the decision was taken as a result of concerns about the potential instrumentalization by the Russian Federation of the movement of asylum seekers and migrants.

“Nevertheless, it is crucial that Council of Europe member states, even when dealing with challenging situations at their borders, react in a manner that fully aligns with their human rights obligations,” she wrote, adding, “the actions of another state, as reprehensible as they may be, do not negate Finland’s obligations under international refugee and human rights law, including as regards non-refoulement, the protection of the right to life, the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, and the prohibition of collective expulsions,” said the Commissioner in the letter written on December 4.

She said that notwithstanding information that it will still be possible to seek asylum at ports and airports, the full closure of the Eastern land border raises concerns as regards genuine and effective access to means

of legal entry in order to claim asylum, in accordance with the case-law of the European Court of Human

Rights and other standards.

“I am concerned this step may lead to breaches of the principle of nonrefoulement and of the prohibition of collective expulsion,” the Commissioner wrote in the letter.

Pointing out the decision of Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman where it was said that to close all but one of the Eastern land border crossing points already “seriously jeopardises the right to seek asylum”, the commissioner said that the assessment can have only aggravated as the result of a complete closure of the border.

“I further note that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also expressed concerns in this regard. I would therefore be grateful to receive information about any measures being taken to ensure the right to seek asylum, including, for example, whether and how individuals who arrive at the Eastern border are being assisted in order to exercise this right,” the letter added.

She also expressed concern that the worsening weather conditions are creating considerable risks for the

health and life of those who present themselves at the Eastern border.

The government on November 28 decided to close the all the border crossing points with Russia from November 30 against the backdrop of influx of the increasing number of asylum seekers.

Earlier, Finland closed three more border crossing points- Kuusamo, Salla and Vartius- at the eastern border early November 24.

​The government took the decision on November 22.

But entry into Finland at the eastern border has continued despite earlier restrictions.

Earlier on November 18, Finland closed four border crossing points- at Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala at eastern border.

The government on November 16, decided to close part of Finland's eastern border with Russia.

The government on November 15 at a meeting decided that measures to ensure border security will be taken following the rapid increase in illegal entry at the eastern border.

Earlier on November 14, the Ministry of the Interior said, the government may decide to restrict cross-border traffic or to close border crossing points at eastern border with Russia against the backdrop of the influx of increasing number of asylum seekers.

  •  Finland
  •  Russia
  •  Border
  •  Closure
  •  EC
  •  Commissioner

Source: www.dailyfinland.fi

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