| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Finland plans more measures to stop asylum surge from Russia border

The prime minister of Finland said on Monday that the country and its allies believe Moscow is orchestrating an abnormally significant spike in asylum seekers crossing the border from Russia.

According to the Finnish Border Guard, 900 asylum seekers from countries such as Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen entered Finland from Russia in November, up from less than one each day earlier.

Finland blames a change in Russian border protocol for the increase and calls this a hybrid attack.

It says Moscow is funnelling them to the border in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, a charge the Kremlin denies. Finland infuriated Russia when it joined NATO in April, ending decades of military non-alignment, due to the war in Ukraine.

It has already closed all but one entry point but is still expecting more migrants to arrive.

“Intelligence information from different sources tells us that there still are people on the move … If this continues, more measures will be announced in the near future,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference.

He gave no details of what the measures could entail.

Several Finnish media outlets reported on Monday, citing anonymous government sources, that the government had held talks over closing the whole border.

Finland’s defence forces said last week they would assist the Border Guard in mounting temporary barriers at certain parts of the border to stop people crossing through the forests.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told the press conference with Orpo that defending the Finnish border was a joint responsibility, and Sweden would provide help should Finland ask for it.

He said Russia was orchestrating the situation “with the obvious aim to cause wider problems and create fragmentation in Western countries”.

“This is an EU external border and we have a common interest in (Finland’s) efforts,” he said.

The European Union’s border agency Frontex last week agreed with Finland to deploy dozens of its border guards and other staff and equipment to help at the border from this week.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday told a news conference in Brussels the defence alliance had so far not received any request for involvement.

“In recent weeks, Moscow has been facilitating the arrival of migrants at Finland’s border with Russia, prompting the closure of border crossing points, using migration as a tool to put pressure on a neighbour and a NATO ally,” Stoltenberg said.

In 2021 a surge in migration from the Middle East and Africa via Belarus created a humanitarian crisis that Poland and the European Union said was deliberately created by Minsk in a bid to destabilise the bloc. Belarus repeatedly denied flying in people and pushing them across the border.

  • Reuters