The Finnish government announced the closure of four crossing points on the Finland-Russia border Thursday. The closure will start on November 18 and remain in force for one year.
Upon the closure, asylum seekers will only be able to make their submissions at two crossing points: Vartius and Salla. As asylum applications can only be filed within Finnish territory or ports of entry, the closure would mean that asylum seekers have fewer channels to enter Finland and make the applications.
Mari Rantanen, the Finnish Minister of the Interior, remarked that the Finnish government will take stronger measures if necessary. The Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman warned that the government is obligated to ensure effective asylum access and to respect the right to seek asylum. The ombudsman also emphasized that the right to seek asylum, the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion are central in EU law and the Finnish legal system.
The Finnish government exercised the power to close its border under its Border Guard Act. Section 16 of the act provides that the government can close the border if necessary to prevent a serious threat to public order or national security. Justifying the closure decision, the Finnish State Council said that the government recently observed a surge in illegal immigration and that the surge had tied the Border Guard’s resources to Finnish’s southeastern border. The council further accused Russian authorities of organizing and enticing Belarusian migrants to enter Finland through Russia. Russia has yet to respond.