The Finnish government announced a comprehensive border closure policy on Wednesday for its border with Russia, closing a number of land border crossings. The policy is aimed at addressing an escalating influx of migrants and ensuring national security as Finnish officials have accused Russia of allowing persons with insufficient documentation to cross. Only one border crossing will remain open for individuals seeking asylum.
Finland’s border closure policy, effective immediately, seeks to prevent unauthorized border crossings and maintain control over the inflow of individuals from the neighboring country. An earlier version of the policy closed other border crossings, but authorities said that it was necessary to close more checkpoints as “it is clear that the authorities of a foreign country and other actors play a role in facilitating the arrival of persons who have crossed the border to Finland.” The Finnish Border Guard will strengthen its presence along the border, implementing heightened surveillance and patrolling measures to deter unauthorized crossings and maintain the border’s integrity.
The government also plans to establish dedicated refugee processing centers near the border in order to ensure that individuals seeking asylum are properly identified, documented and assessed. These centers will handle refugee claims, acknowledging the need to balance national security concerns and the rights of refugees. Finnish authorities pledged to continually re-evaluate the temporary restrictions through December 23.
The decision to implement the border closure policy is based on the Finnish government’s concerns regarding the significant increase in migrants entering the country from Russia, many of whom are from third countries. The government aims to address this issue by adopting measures to control the entry of individuals who may pose security risks or do not qualify for asylum.
Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, voiced Brussels’ full support for Helsinki’s “commitment to both border security and upholding values.” She commented, “The Finnish border is the EU’s border. The European Union is behind you. You can count on our full support.” In a demonstration of EU solidarity, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, announced plans to deploy 50 border guard officers and additional staff, along with patrol cars and equipment, on Thursday to reinforce Finland’s border security measures.
However, tensions are rising as hundreds seeking asylum are now stranded in the Finnish town of Salla due to Finnish policy. The governor of Russia’s Murmansk Oblast, Andrei Chibis, claimed on Telegram that Finland is artificially creating a “humanitarian crisis” and traffic jam, with over 300 people from 10 countries waiting days to cross. Russia is providing shelter, heat, food and drink for stranded migrants, according to the Governor. Chibis warned on Thursday that closures may exponentially increase migrant flows through Russia’s border with Finland. Over 400 migrants are now at Salla, but Finland has only admitted 50.