Finland will again shut its entire border with Russia to stop the inflow of asylum seekers, Minister of Interior Mari Rantanen said on Thursday, just hours after the Nordic nation relaxed a two-week closure of all roads between the two countries.
Helsinki has said a recent rise in asylum seekers arriving via Russia was an orchestrated move by Moscow in retaliation for the Nordic country’s decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, a charge the Kremlin denies.
The arrivals stopped when Finland shut the border in late November, but resumed on Thursday when two of the eight crossings were opened, with some 36 people seeking asylum, the Finnish Border Guard said.
“This is a sign that the Russian authorities are continuing their hybrid operation against Finland. This is something that Finland will not tolerate,” Rantanen said in a statement.
The new border closure will begin on Friday at 1800 GMT and last for one month, she said.
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations such as Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Border Guard.
In a letter published on Monday, the Council of Europe said it was “concerned about the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants” following the temporary border closure, and asked Finland to ensure it remained possible to seek protection.
Rantanen, who represents the anti-immigration Finns Party, on Monday told Reuters there was no cause for human rights concerns, however, as asylum could be sought at other entry points.
During the two-week Russia border closure, Finland still allowed asylum applications to be filed for migrants arriving at harbours and airports.