Border Guard (Rajavartiolaitos)
The Finnish Border Guard (Rajavartiolaitos) enjoys a strong reputation among its own population. As a paramilitary force, the Border Guard falls under the authority of the Finnish Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for internal security. The Finnish Border Guard strengthens the security of Finland, and prevents security threats directed at Finland and Europe at the external borders. Border traffic is safe and efficient. Crime prevention makes a great impact. The Finnish Border Guard increases people’s safety in the border area and the islands. The Finnish maritime search and rescue (SAR) system is reliable. The Finnish Border Guard has immediate readiness for management and operation during maritime incidents. The Finnish Border Guard promotes the protection of the maritime environment. The Finnish Border Guard possesses operating capacity for securing society during all states of disruption and emergency. The Finnish Border Guard is fully prepared to secure territorial integrity and to defend the nation.
The Finnish Border Guard was established by the Ministry of the Interior in 1919 to guard the restless borders of newly independent Finland. Over the years its field of operation has expanded as the operating environment has changed – from maritime patrols to maritime safety, and from border surveillance and checks to border security. The Border Guard of today is a diverse and broad security authority which contributes to maintaining the internal and external security of our country as part of Ministry of the Interior. The foundation of the Finnish Border Guard that was laid down 100 years ago has stood the test of time. Securing territorial integrity and maintaining defence readiness are core tasks of the militarily structured Border Guard.
Administrative units are responsible for the functions of the Border Guard. These administrative units are the Border Guard Headquarters, the Southeast Finland, North Karelia, Kainuu and Lapland Border Guard Districts, Gulf of Finland and West Finland Coast Guard Districts, Air Patrol Squadron and Border and Coast Guard Academy.
The Border Guard has been issued six core functions: border surveillance, border checks, crime prevention, maritime safety, international cooperation and national defence. The purpose of border surveillance is to maintain order and security at our borders and prevent and investigate unauthorised border crossings. There is a particular focus on the external border of the Schengen area to prevent unauthorised persons from crossing it in areas between border crossing points.
The land border is patrolled traditionally on foot or skis and by keeping lookout at and near the border. Patrols also use the Air Patrol Squadron's helicopters and planes as well as land vehicles, snowmobiles and boats. Also contributing to border surveillance efforts are dogs trained in tracking. Technical surveillance systems are also employed. At our sea borders the basic structure of border surveillance is formed of coast guard stations with their radar and camera systems. This technical surveillance is supplemented by patrolling ships and boats. The Air Patrol Squadron's aircraft also regularly patrol sea borders.
The Border Guard is the leading search and rescue (SAR) authority at sea and a maritime law enforcement authority with a variety of duties. The Border Guard is responsible for SAR at sea when human lives or the environment are in danger. Maritime SAR missions are coordinated by Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) and Sub-Centre (MRCS).
In Finland defending the nation has always been a key duty of the Border Guard, performed in cooperation with the Defence Forces. Border control - patrolling the land and sea borders - also entails controlling territorial integrity. The Border Guard also trains conscripts. The conscript training units have special expertise in intelligence and guerrilla operations. The Border Guard's border jaeger companies are based in Onttola under the North Karelia Border Guard District and in Ivalo under the Lapland Border Guard District. Special border jaeger training is provided by Border and Coast Guard Academy at Immola, Imatra.
To be able to perform its duties, the Border Guard operates a fleet of vessels and aircraft. The vessels have a dark green body and grey deck structures. A vessel can be identified as part of the Border Guard's fleet by the text RAJAVARTIOLAITOS - GRÄNSBEVAKNINGSVÄSENDET and the orange diagonal stripes on the body. The same identifiers are also used on the aircraft.
The Finnish Border Guard had a total of four offshore patrol boats, of which three – OPV Merikarhu, OPV Tursas and OPV Uisko – received new blue-and-white livery in May 2015. The fourth, OPV Turva, has been patrolling Finland's waters in blue-and-white livery since it went into service in 2014. OPV Merikarhu and OPV Turva operate under the Gulf of Finland Coast Guard District, and OPV Tursas and OPV Uisko under the West Finland Coast Guard District. The coast guard districts are part of the Border Guard and handle surveillance and maritime search and rescue operations along Finland's maritime borders and in its sea areas. The offshore patrol vessels undertake these duties in outer sea areas.
The vessels' former green-and-orange livery was changed to blue-and-white to be more in line with international practice. The standard practice for fleets engaged in coast guard operations is for their livery to indicate their nationality, as the Border Guard's patrol boats now do. The main reasons for introducing a livery in Finland's national colours were Finland's status as an EU Member State, changes in the Border Guard's duties, and a more international operating environment.
After the end of the First World War and after the conditions had stabilized, Finnish alcohol consumption started to increase. The Prohibition Act, which entered into force in 1919, led to large-scale alcohol smuggling in the 1920s, which is illustrated by the fact that in 1929 nearly one million liters of alcohol was seized by various authorities. The amount was estimated to be only 10-20% of the total smuggled bath.
In the spring of 1929, the Finnish government set up a committee to investigate why the fight against smuggling had failed. One of the reasons the Committee noted was the weakness of guarding the sea and the hopeless old age of guard systems and equipment. For the reorganization of the Coast Guard, the Commander of the Finnish Customs was Väinö Miettinen.
Miettinen proposed a military-organized coastguard-type facility consisting of a staff and three guard purchases - the Gulf of Bothnia, the Åland Islands and the Gulf of Finland. The Law on the Coast Guard, drafted on the basis of the proposal, entered into force on 1 May 1930 and Decree 1 June 1930. In the explanatory memorandum to the Act, the incompetence of guarding the sea border was due, among other things, to: the fact that the customs fleet, built for conditions 30 to 50 years earlier, was obsolete. It was sufficiently well-organized and organized to withstand smuggling. The explanatory memorandum also stated that the Customs, as a State Accounting Office, was not organized in such a way that it could police control the maritime border, since its main task is to collect tax.
The Coast Guard was placed under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior and its leadership became one of the sections of the Police Department. 318 people, 29 patrol vessels and 56 patrol motor boats of different sizes were transferred from the Customs to the Coast Guard. The Customs also received a 120-horsepower two-seater water level, based in Degerby in the Åland Islands.
By 1934, smuggling was largely reduced by about a tenth of the previous rate, thanks to the extra power provided by the Coast Guard . For the seizure of a bathhouse, this means an annual drop from half a million liters to a few tens of thousands of liters. By 1939, the Coast Guard seized more than 1.7 million liters of spirits, 19 ships, 599 motor boats and 169 smaller boats.
During the war, the Border and Coast Guards carried out enhanced border surveillance and were the first to receive enemy attacks on land and at sea. The units of both institutions displayed a high level of professionalism in the wars. After the war, the Coast Guard was attached to the Border Guard, which also made the Border Guard responsible for guarding the sea borders. Following the abolition of the Åland Coast Guard and the handover of the Porkkala rental area, the border guards' distribution on land and at sea has remained the same, except for minor border checks.
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