Finland to close four Russian border crossings after surge in migrants

16 November 2023, 14:34

Finland Russia
Finland Russia. Picture: PA

The Finnish Border Guard says migrants have in the past days arrived mainly from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey and Somalia.

Finland is to close four crossing points on its long border with Russia to stop the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants that it accuses Moscow of ushering to the border in recent months.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said the south-eastern crossing points – Imatra, Niirala, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa – will be closed at midnight on Friday.

The Finland-Russia border runs a total of 832 miles, mostly in thick forests in the south, all the way to the rugged landscape in the Arctic north. There are currently nine crossing points with one dedicated to rail travel only.

“Operations of the Russian border authorities have changed,” Mr Orpo told reporters.

He referred to dozens of migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, who have arrived in recent days at the Nordic nation without proper documentation and have sought asylum after allegedly being helped by Russian authorities to travel to the heavily controlled border zone.

This represents a major change since Finnish and Russian border authorities have for decades cooperated in stopping people without the necessary visas or passports before they could attempt to enter either of the two countries.

Finnish authorities said this week that Russia has in recent months started allowing undocumented travellers to access the border zone and enter crossing stations where they can request asylum in Finland.

The Finnish Border Guard says migrants have in the past days arrived mainly from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey and Somalia, and nearly all have arrived at the border zone on bicycles that Finnish and Russian media reports say were provided and sold to them.

Most of them have used Russia only as a transit country to enter Finland and the EU, officials said.

Finland Russia
Migrants have been entering Finland from Russia without proper documentation (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)

Some 280 third-country migrants have arrived in Finland from Russia since September, border officials said on Thursday.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Wednesday linked Russia’s actions to Finland’s Nato membership in April after decades of military non-alignment, something that infuriated Moscow, which has threatened Helsinki with retaliatory measures several times.

He noted that Finland must be prepared for “certain malice” from Russia due to its decision to join the Western military alliance as a result of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022.

“Yes, we’re constantly being reminded (by Moscow) that Finland has joined Nato,” Mr Niinisto told reporters during a visit to Germany.

Finland’s Foreign Ministry announced last month that the country of 5.6 million has concluded a deal on a new bilateral defence agreement with the United States.

Among other things, the so called DCA-pact allows Washington to send US troops and store equipment, weapons and ammunition in agreed locations in Finland.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday, when asked about Finland considering the closure of the border crossings, that Russian authorities “deeply regret that the leadership of Finland chose the path of deliberate distancing from the previously good nature of our bilateral relations”.

By Press Association

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