Faced with the recent arrival of dozens of illegal immigrants, the last still open border point between Finland and Russia will be completely closed overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. Helsinki accuses Moscow of exploiting refugees.
Finland will close the last still open border crossing with Russia on the night of Wednesday, November 29, to Thursday, November 30, accusing Moscow of orchestrating a “hybrid attack” by sending illegal migrants to the border.
Nearly 1,000 illegal asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia, Iraq and Yemen, have presented themselves since the beginning of August at the 1,340-kilometre eastern border that Finland shares with Russia, according to Helsinki.
Prime Minister Petteri Orbo stressed on Tuesday that “the phenomenon observed in recent weeks at the border must stop,” noting that “automated migration from Russia continues.”
Helsinki closed four of its eight crossing points with Russia in mid-November, before restricting traffic to one border crossing, the far north of the country, in the Arctic region, last week.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen confirmed, “Finland is the target of a Russian hybrid operation. It is a matter of national security.”
“Sometimes decisions are simply irrational,” responded Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, quoted by Russian news agencies.
She said the Raja-Giuseppe border post would remain closed until December 13. Asylum seekers will have to seek protection “at border crossing points open to air and sea traffic,” that is, at ports and airports, according to a government press release.
The Finnish Prime Minister said that this influx of migrants was “an organized activity and not a real emergency.” “The ease with which migrants reached the remote Raja-Giuseppe border crossing is evidence of this,” he added. “It’s not just about the number of arrivals, it’s about the phenomenon itself,” said Pietri Orbo.
Relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated significantly since the February 2022 Russian attack in Ukraine, an attack that prompted Finland, concerned for its security, to join NATO in April 2023. Moscow then promised to take “countermeasures” after this accession.
“Our message is clear. Do not come. The borders are closed.”
Last week, the Finnish government considered closing its borders, but the measure was then deemed disproportionate by the authority responsible for monitoring the legality of government actions.
Borders can be closed completely in exceptional circumstances, but such closure must be proportionate and asylum seekers must be able to submit their claims. The government stressed in its press statement that this closure is “necessary and proportionate.”
In response to a question about caring for migrants who will be left in the cold in front of closed border crossings, Orbo replied that “without the change in the policy of the Russian authorities, this phenomenon would not have existed.”
“We trust the Border Patrol’s judgment [russes] Their ability to respond to different situations.
The Interior Minister stressed that migrants bear “the responsibility to decide whether to come to the border or not.” “Our message is clear. Do not come. The borders are closed,” she said.
The Border Guard stressed that the migration pressure has so far been at the border crossings and not along the rest of the border in uninhabited areas.
Anticipating that Moscow would resort to migration pressure, Finland began building a massive fence more than 200 kilometers long, but it was only completed at a distance of three kilometers.
Orbo said he hoped the situation with Russia would return to normal “as soon as possible.” He added: “It is in everyone’s interest, including Russia.”
With Agence France-Presse
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