Faced with the recent arrival of dozens of undocumented immigrants, the last border crossing still open between Finland and Russia will close completely during the night from Wednesday to Thursday. Helsinki accuses Moscow of exploiting refugees.
Published on: 11/29/2023 – 10:07 p.m.
Finland will close its last border post still open with Russia on the night of Wednesday November 29 to Thursday November 30, accusing Moscow of orchestrating a “hybrid attack” by sending undocumented migrants to the border.
Nearly 1,000 undocumented asylum seekers, notably from Somalia, Iraq and Yemen, have presented themselves since the beginning of August at the 1,340 kilometer long eastern border that Finland shares with Russia, according to Helsinki.
“The phenomenon observed in recent weeks at the border must stop,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo assured Tuesday, stressing that “instrumentalized migration from Russia has continued.”
Helsinki closed four of its eight crossing points with Russia in mid-November, before restricting passage to a single border crossing, the northernmost in the country, in the Arctic zone, last week.
“Finland is the target of a Russian hybrid operation. This is a question of national security,” emphasized Interior Minister Mari Rantanen.
“Sometimes decisions are simply irrational,” reacted Alexander Grushko, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, quoted by Russian agencies.
The Raja-Jooseppi border post will remain closed until December 13, she said. Asylum seekers will have to request protection “at border crossing points open to air and maritime traffic”, that is to say ports and airports, according to a government press release.
This influx of migrants “is an organized activity, and not a real emergency”, according to the Finnish Prime Minister. “The ease with which migrants reached the isolated Raja-Jooseppi border post is proof of this,” he added. “It is not just the number of arrivals that is at issue, but the phenomenon itself,” said Petteri Orpo.
Relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated considerably since February 2022 and the Russian offensive in Ukraine, an attack which led Finland, worried about its own security, to join NATO in April 2023. Moscow then promised to take “countermeasures” after this accession.
“Our message is clear. Do not come. The border is closed »
Last week, the Finnish government considered closing its border but the measure was deemed disproportionate by the authority responsible for monitoring the legality of government measures.
The border can be completely closed in exceptional circumstances, but this closure must be proportionate and asylum seekers must be able to submit their application. This closure is “necessary and proportionate”, assured the government in its press release.
Asked about the care of migrants who would be abandoned in the cold in front of closed border posts, Orpo replied that “without the change in policy of the Russian authorities, this phenomenon would not exist”.
“We have confidence in the judgment of the (Russian) border guards and their ability to react to different situations,” he said.
The Minister of the Interior stressed that migrants had “the responsibility to decide whether or not to present themselves at the border”. “Our message is clear. Don’t come. The border is closed,” she said.
Border guards stressed that migratory pressure has so far been at border crossings and not along the rest of the border, in uninhabited areas.
Anticipating Moscow’s recourse to migratory pressure, Finland began building a vast fence covering 200 km, but which was only completed over three kilometers.
Orpo said he hoped the situation with Russia would normalize “as quickly as possible.” “It is in the interest of everyone, including Russia,” he added.