In recent weeks, Finland has experienced a surge in the number of third-country asylum seekers arriving at its border crossings from Russia. Last week, the Finnish interior minister Mari Rantanen stated that the country is preparing to take action to manage the situation. However, things have taken a turn for the worse. On Monday, Finland declared that it had become impossible to return asylum seekers who did not meet the criteria for protection. As a result, it may impose further restrictions on migrant entries from Russia due to the increased number of applicants.
Russian authorities are bringing migrants from Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and other countries to the border between Finland and Russia. Over 500 asylum seekers have arrived in Finland through Russia in the past fortnight.
The critical situation prompted Helsinki to close half of its border crossings and accuse Moscow of directing migrants to its border. Despite this, Moscow denies the accusations. Now, migrants from Russia into Finland can only apply for asylum at two of the remaining four border crossings along their shared 1,340 km border.
During his state visit to Poland, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto expressed his concern about the uncontrollable entry of migrants into Europe’s passport-free Schengen area. He stated that deporting migrants who do not meet the criteria for asylum has become impossible. The Finnish President called for an EU-wide solution to this issue, emphasising that it is not feasible for each country to handle the situation individually, especially when it might cause problems in neighbouring countries.
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo visited today the still-open Vartius crossing some 700 km north of Helsinki to thank and support the Border Guard. Orpo said his government would take further action if necessary, but he did not specify whether it would close all remaining border crossings with Russia.
The Prime Minister stated that the Russian authorities have been acting in an unusual manner by allowing individuals without proper travel documents to cross the Finnish borders.
“We also have many indications that this activity is organized and assisted.We do not accept this and if necessary, we will take further action,” said Orpo.
“Our task is to ensure that the Border Guard and other authorities have all the tools at their disposal to calm the situation and protect Finland’s borders and border security,” said the Prime Minister.
The Head of the Border Guard, Pasi Kostamovaara, confirmed that “The Border Guard has the situation under control. We are prepared for changes in the situation, and several different operating options are being planned.”
In 2021, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia accused Belarus, a close ally of Moscow, of deliberately creating a migrant crisis on their borders by transporting people from the Middle East and Africa and attempting to force them across the border. Despite the accusations, Belarus repeatedly denied any involvement in the crisis.