Finnish Police Carry Machine Guns at the Helsinki Airport

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Picture: Morgan Walker for Finland Today

This morning the aftermath of yesterday’s terror attacks at the Houses of Parliament in London, where five people died, including a policeman and the attacker, holds the world in shock, the Finnish police increase surveillance around the Parliament and their fellow officers carry machine guns at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

While the increased security around politicians is according to the Minister of the Interior Paula Risikko directly related to the London attacks, the Finnish police have been carrying machine guns at the airport already from last December. Why haven’t you seen them? Because they are concealed in their backpacks.

According to Kari Rantala, chief of the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is for the time being the only location in Finland where police officers carry machine guns as part of their daily routine. “If something happens here, we need to be able to react fast. That’s why we need to carry weapons and not hold them in some trunk,” he said.

Police carrying machine guns openly is a common sight around the world but in Finland, according to Rantala, the law enforcement is restrained to display policing weapons openly. “It could increase the sense of insecurity. When it should be the other way around,” Rantala said.

The Minister of the Interior Paula Risikko. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The Police, the Border Guard and the Customs together with the interior minister Risikko briefed the media about the updated security measures at Helsinki-Vantaa on Wednesday evening. According to the authorities, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, as a hub for international travel, is in the key position for the safety of the whole country. In 2016, 17.2 million passengers traveled through the airport and the number of passengers is expected to grow to 20 million by 2020. “Among a crowd like this, there can be people with connections to terrorism and serious crime. The international security situation is always reflected to Helsinki-Vantaa as well,” Rantala said.

“If something happens here, we need to be able to react fast. That’s why we need to carry weapons and not hold them in some trunk.”

The authorities at Helsinki-Vantaa are cooperating closely. The Customs has been busy busting drug dealers on the internet. Last August, they started using an arms and explosives dog that can smell weapons in luggage. In the past few days, they’ve been having their hands full with X-raying mail coming from Greece after a letter bomb exploded at the office of the International Monetary Fund in Paris last Thursday (Greek anarchists suspected) and after a package of explosives was found in mail at the German Finance Ministry in Berlin during the same week.

The Finnish Border Guard, on the other hand, revealed over a hundred crimes related to illegal immigration and over 300 forged documents last year. In addition, the border guard exposed 1,500 wanted persons.

Even when the cooperation between the authorities is working well at Helsinki-Vantaa, Risikko sees a need to increase the powers of the border guard to react in situations that demand quick action. “In a situation, where something happens at the border, we can’t be calling the police, which would have the required authority to act. Now we are investigating what kind of powers does the border guard need without having to call other persons to the scene,” said Risikko.

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