The Finnish Border guard (Finnish: Rajavartiolaitos, Swedish: Gränsbevakningsväsendet) is the national security agency responsible for enforcing the security of Finland's borders. It is a military organization, subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior in administrative issues and to the President of the Republic in issues pertaining to the president's authority as Commander-in-Chief (e.g. officer promotions).
The border guard's personnel consists of 2,800 men and women. The Finnish Border Guard has also 500 conscripts who are not used for border control during peace time. Upon mobilisation the Border Guard would be wholly or partly incorporated into the Finnish Defence Forces and its strength increased with reservists who have served their conscription in the border guard. The mobilized strength of the Border Guard is 11 600 persons.
Duties and jurisdiction
Main duties of the Finnish Border Guard:
- Controlling the land borders and territorial waters of Finland.
- Passport control at border crossing points, airports and ports.
- Rescue operations (mainly at sea and in the remote areas of Lapland).
- Provide aid to other authorities such as the Fire Department in case of unusual events like wild fires.
- Investigation of crimes pertaining to border security.
- Customs control in the minor border crossing points without customs authorities.
- Training of conscripts for wartime duty. These include rajajääkäri (border jaegers) and erikoisrajajääkäri (special border jaegers).
- (during wartime) Long range patrols and guerrilla tactics behind enemy lines.
For the discharge of its duties, the Border Guard has limited police powers in the areas where it operates. It can, for example, seize and arrest persons and conduct searches in apartments and cars pursuant to same legislation as the police, when investigating a crime. However, the power to arrest a person has been delegated only to the commanding officers of a border control detachments and commanders and vice-commanders of larger units.
The Border Guard is not supposed to be used for the keeping of public order under normal circumstances but it has quick response teams that can be used to support the police in exceptional situations. This has been done several times in recent history to supplement riot police during high profile international events where there is a perceived danger of violent demonstrations. Border Guard helicopters have also been used to assist police in evicting squatters by landing them on the roof of the occupied building.
The Border Guard also has the power to keep public order in its own facilities and in their immediate vicinity. For the execution of its military exercises, any officer with the minimum rank of captain can close an area temporarily.
The Border Guard is responsible for enforcing the 3–5 km border zone towards Russia and issues the permits to visit the zone.
Administrative units are responsible for the functions of the Border Guard. These administrative units are the Border Guard Headquarters, Southeast Finland, North Karelia, Kainuu and Lapland border guard districts, the Gulf of Finland and West Finland coast guard districts, Air Patrol Squadron and Border and Coast Guard Academy.
The Border Guard operates:
- Six Offshore patrol vessels (Four in Western Finland, two in the Gulf of Finland), fitted with ASW equipment
- Seven Hovercraft (Five in Western Finland, two in Gulf of Finland)
- 81 Coastal patrol craft (56 in West Finland, 25 in Gulf of Finland), in total 23 pcs of Watercat 1300 Patrol vessels ("PV 08"-class) are also on order, where 20 pcs have been delivered 2007-2012 and three more will be delivered 2012.
A new patrol vessel, dubbed UVL10, is under construction at STX Finland shipyard in Rauma.
The Border Guard operates 14 aircraft, including 12 helicopters. The AB 412s are to be replaced by new twin-engined helicopters, while the Super Pumas and Do 228s are being modernized.
|AgustaWestland AW119||utility helicopter||AW119Ke||4||built by Agusta|
|Bell 412||transport helicopter||AB 412
|built by Agusta, two Helsinki based helicopters are to be replaced by new AS332L1e helicopters by 2015.|
|Eurocopter Super Puma||transport helicopter||AS 332L-1
|built by Eurocopter. Two on order.|
|Dornier Do 228||maritime patrol aircraft||Do 228-212||2|
After the Finnish Civil War in 1919, the control of the Finnish borders was given to the frontier troops under the command of the Ministry of Interior. Until 1945, only the Russian border was supervised by the Frontier Guard, the Swedish and Norwegian borders having only customs control. In 1929, a separate Sea Guard was founded to prevent the rampant alcohol smuggling caused by the Finnish prohibition of alcohol (1919–32).
At the start of the Winter War there were nine Border Companies (Rajakomppania) on the Karelian Isthmus. North of Lake Ladoga the Frontier Guards were combined into six Detached Battalions (Erillinen pataljoona). Further north in Petsamo the defence was left to the 10th Detached Company (10. Erillinen komppania). After the war marshal Mannerheim awarded all frontier guards the title "Border jäger" (Rajajääkäri).
During the Continuation War, the Frontier Guard companies were combined into 8 Border Jäger battalions (Rajajääkäripataljoona) and later during the Lapland War into a Border Jäger Brigade (Rajajääkäriprikaati).
After the Second World War, the Border Guards were placed on all Finnish borders. In 1950s, the Sea Guard was attached to the Border Guard. Since then, the Border Guard has received a fine public image. It is famed for the wilderness skills of its guards foot-patrolling the forest-covered Russian border, its good efficiency in catching the few illegal border crossers and for the fact that it is the only state authority in large parts of Lapland. In these matters it resembles the popular image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Border Guard of Finland is one of the links of the chain of protectors of the external borders of the European Union and Schengen agreement.
Nearly every Border Guard District trains small number of conscripts for long range reconnaissance. Conscripts in Border Guard companies are mostly volunteers and preferably selected from the occupants of border areas, and while trained by Border Guard, they do not perform regular border control duties. Rivalry between Sissi troops from Border Guard and Defence Forces is traditionally high. Employment in Border Guard is much sought for, especially in North and Eastern Finland, which suffer from chronic unemployment problems. Typically a vacancy in the Border Guard receives at least 50 applications.
- Frontex (The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union)
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