The government banned Finns from crossing the border due to the coronavirus, but according to an expert, the ban is not based on law.
The reintroduction of border control separated Finnish citizens living in Tornio and Haparanda. Authority activity on the western border battling the coronavirus is characterized by inconsistency. Citizens do not know what can and cannot be done – nor what law the action is based on. Border guards don’t seem to know any better.
The issue is acute on the western border, as, for example, 30–40 per cent of Haparanda’s 9,600 inhabitants are Finnish citizens. The reintroduction of government internal border controls split families, prevented access to summer cottages and grocery stores, and even made it more difficult to access a pharmacy, as many people living behind the border have a doctor in Finland and therefore prescriptions are in a Finnish pharmacy.
Finnish citizens who know their fundamental rights and express them clearly have been able to cross the border freely. The authority does not state this on its own initiative.
The government, the authorities and the border guards guarding the border have repeatedly failed to state the content of Article 9 of the Constitution, according to which a Finn has the right to enter and leave the country at any time. No exceptional laws go beyond the Constitution.
The government’s decisions do not state the matter directly, but it can be found in the memorandum attached to the decision. A memorandum written by Markku Hassinen, Deputy Head of the Border Guard, states: “According to Article 9 of the Constitution, a Finnish citizen may not be prevented from entering the country. Everyone also has the right to leave the country. The reintroduction of internal border control does not affect these rights.”
The memorandum also states that the reintroduction of internal border control would not change the provisions of national law. The right of entry and exit would thus be determined by the legislation currently in force.
The constitutional right to enter and leave the country was not announced out loud by the government until 5 May, when Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo answered a question from a journalist about travel.
“Legally, it is the case that a Finnish citizen can always leave the country and always come back to the country, of course, we as a government cannot deny this,” Ohisalo said.
That same morning, however, the practices on the western border were still the same. The two Finnish construction entrepreneurs who travelled in the same van did not get to their construction site in Sweden at Ylitornio until after fifteen minutes of investigation. The trailer of the van was inspected. They were not told about the constitutional right to leave the country.