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Border guards are seen at the Raja-Jooseppi international border crossing station in Inari, Finland, on 28 November 2023. Raja-Jooseppi in the far north of Finnish Lapland has been the only crossing point open on the country's eastern border for the past days, but Finland has decided to close all points on the Russian border for two weeks from 30 November. (Photo by Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva / AFP)

Finland to Close All Road Border Crossing Points With Russia

Finland announced it was closing all its border crossing points with Russia, accusing its neighbor of funneling in asylum seekers to threaten the country’s national security.

Finland’s government claims that Russia is conducting an “influence operation” and “hybrid attack” to destabilize the country by sending asylum seekers after the nation entered the NATO military alliance earlier this year. The migrants comes from African and Middle Eastern nations, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Roughly 900 asylum seekers entered Finland through these crossings in November—an increase from the previous average of less than one a day, or 91 within the four-month span before 12 November.

“Finnish authorities say some 1,000 migrants without visas or valid documentation have arrived since August at the normally heavily controlled border, which makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank and acts as the European Union’s external border in the north,” the Associated Press reported.

Nearly all of the road crossing points were already closed earlier along the 830-mile (1,340-kilmeter) border in November and the last one—Raja-Jooseppi, which is located in the Arctic Circle—will be closed for two weeks starting at midnight on 29 November, with the crossing expected to reopen on 13 December.

Those who arrived at the Finland-Russia road crossings were mostly men in their 20s and 30s, but also included women and families with small children, according to the AP.

“Speaking to the BBC, Matti Pitkaniitty, a colonel in the Finnish border guard…said border guards had noticed clear evidence of Russian officials helping migrants cross into Finland, such as instances where Russian border points were closed after people crossed to prevent them returning,” BBC News reported.

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Some Finnish officials are concerned that the decision risks violating asylum seekers’ rights under international law. Those seeking asylum will now be limited to applying for a protected status at open crossing points at sea ports and airports. Border road crossings further south in Finland were considered safer than other ways of entering the European Union, such as sea crossings on the Mediterranean. Those arriving and hoping to find asylum at this northernmost crossing point often did so on bicycles and in clothing better suited to warmer climates than the Arctic Circle.

The accusations were previously made earlier in November, with Finnish officials claiming Russia was helping migrants enter illegally in retaliation for Finland increasing defense cooperation with the United States, according to Al Jazeera.

“Before joining NATO this year, a decision prompted by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Finnish officials warned that Russia could seek ways to destabilize the country in retaliation, including cyber attacks and ushering migrants to its borders,” the AP said. The Kremlin has denied the accusations and said that the border closure could increase tensions between the two nations.

Further, the Russian government said that it would consider it a threat if Finland were to accept the military support offered by Poland to help law enforcement along the border.

Nearby Estonia, which also borders Russia, said it was ready for an influx of migrants to reach its borders as Finland closes the last road crossing point.

 

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