Migration: Finland closes border for passenger traffic to Russia

migration
Finland closes border for passenger traffic to Russia

Trucks are parked at the Raja-Jooseppi international border crossing station. photo

© Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/AP/dpa

Hundreds of them crossed the Russian-Finnish border, some on bicycles: asylum seekers, mainly from the Middle East. Did Moscow exploit people to annoy its neighbors?

More than a thousand kilometers of border and no way through: Finland has temporarily closed its last border crossing to Russia that is still open to passenger traffic. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said this at a televised press conference on Tuesday. Recently, only one border crossing north of the Arctic Circle was open.

In recent weeks, the Finnish border guards have registered a sharp increase in the number of people, mainly from the Middle East, who entered Russia without the necessary documents and applied for asylum in Finland. As a result, Finland gradually closed its border crossings with Russia.

According to official information, over 600 asylum seekers arrived from Russia in November alone. The Finnish government accuses Moscow of deliberately allowing asylum seekers without valid papers to enter Finland. “Russia caused this situation and can stop it,” said Prime Minister Orpo. The sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers entering the country is “an organized activity” and not a real emergency, said Orpo.

Border station for freight traffic remains open

Finland has a 1,340 kilometer long border with Russia. The only border crossing between Finland and Russia at Raja-Jooseppi that is still open for passenger traffic is to be closed from Thursday, initially for two weeks. Only the Vainikkala border station in southeast Finland remains open for rail freight traffic.

Russian representatives have criticized the gradual closure of Finnish border crossings.

In view of the increase in arriving asylum seekers, the EU border protection agency Frontex announced last week that it would soon send 50 officers, additional staff and patrol vehicles to Finland. These should help with registering migrants, checking documents and acting as interpreters.

Finland joined NATO in April under the impression of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The accession is one of the far-reaching geopolitical consequences of the Ukraine war. The Nordic country with around 5.5 million inhabitants had previously placed great value on freedom from military alliances for decades. With Finland’s accession, NATO’s external border towards Russia more than doubled.

dpa

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