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UNHCR urges Finland to protect the right to seek asylum

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UNHCR urges Finland to protect the right to seek asylum

30 November 2023
UNHCR Press Release

UNHCR is concerned about the closure of Finland’s eastern land border which may prevent people who wish to apply for asylum from accessing the territory and the asylum procedures in line with international refugee law.

While States have a legitimate right to control their borders, they should do so in accordance with their international obligations and in respect of international refugee law. Even in cases when borders are closed, States must safeguard the rights of those seeking international protection.

It is possible to manage borders and address security concerns, while implementing fair, humane and efficient policies towards asylum-seekers that are in line with States’ obligations under international human rights and refugee law, including the 1951 Convention as well as European law.  It is equally important to effectively ensure that asylum seekers are aware of their rights and legal options and adequately supported in pursuing them.

It is reported that almost 1,000 people have arrived in Finland through the border with the Russian Federation in recent weeks, mostly originating from Somalia, Syria and Yemen, compared to less than 100 in the first six months of the year. UNHCR urges the Finnish authorities to make all efforts to ensure the safety and protection of these persons, including paying particular attention to any vulnerable asylum seekers in urgent need of assistance and international protection.

UNHCR has reached out to the Russian authorities to understand the situation at the border and of the affected individuals, and the reasons for the increase of movement towards the Finnish border. UNHCR is also in regular contact with the Finnish authorities and stands ready to support in finding a solution to this situation.

UNHCR urges both States to cooperate and to responsibly manage their borders in a protection sensitive manner, ensuring meaningful protection for all those in need. This is particularly important considering the harsh winter conditions affecting the region.