Finland has decided for closing its 1,340-kilometer long eastern border with Russia due to a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving this month.
Prime Minister Petteri Orpo has labeled the situation a “hybrid attack” orchestrated by Moscow, accusing Russia of directing third-country migrants to the border crossings to create a crisis. This move is seen by Finland as potential retaliation for the country’s recent NATO membership.
The Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint, Finland’s northernmost border crossing with Russia, was the only one remaining open until this week. Seven others were closed since November 18. Migrants arriving at the border face harsh Arctic conditions with limited daylight hours. After the closure of Raja-Jooseppi, migrants seeking protection in Finland will have to use air and maritime entry points.
The Finnish government has declared the entire border with Russia will remain closed until at least December 13. Official statistics reveal that over 800 asylum seekers, primarily from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, have arrived at Finland’s border crossings in November alone, a stark contrast to the 100 arrivals between August and November.
Prime Minister Orpo justifies the border closures as a “necessary and proportionate measure” based on intelligence indicating ongoing movement of people. He emphasized that border authorities anticipate the situation could “intensify even more” without such measures.
It’s important to note that Moscow has denied Finland’s allegations, and the closure of the border may face scrutiny under international law. The development raises concerns about the impact on migrants facing challenging conditions and the broader implications for diplomatic relations between Finland and Russia.