Migrants: Finland closes half of its border crossings with Russia at midnight

An asylum seeker sits on the ground near the Nuijamaa border crossing between Finland and Russia, in Lappeenranta, southeastern Finland, November 17, 2023. ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO / AFP

Finland accuses Moscow of trying to destabilize the country by letting undocumented migrants cross the border.

Around sixty asylum seekers presented themselves on Friday, November 17 at the four border crossing points in the south-east of the country, a few hours before their closure, a border guard official told AFP. Finland will close these four posts, or half of its border crossing points with Russia, at midnight, accusing Moscow of trying to let undocumented migrants cross the border.

A growing number of undocumented migrants have shown up in southeastern Finland in recent weeks, most of them coming by bicycle. Today we had another 60“, Jussi Vainkka, a border guard official at the Nuijamaa border post, told AFP. Before, Russia “did not let these migrants come to Finland without the necessary papers“, he added. “This is the main change we have seen“.

Influx of visa-free migrants

Finland, which shares a 1,340 km border with Russia and joined NATO in April, has seen an influx of visa-free migrants from the Middle East and Africa, particularly Iraq, since the end of August. Somalia and Yemen. “We are prepared for many scenarios. Let’s see what happens and we will react if necessary“, said the head of the border guards.

These comments echo those of Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, who said on Thursday that Finland had “prepared for different kinds of actions, malicious acts on the part of Russia, so the situation is not a surprise“. At the same Nuijamaa border post, Yasser Alu, an asylum seeker, told AFP that he was from Syria and that he arrived from Russia by bike.

Closure planned until February 18, 2024

I arrived in Moscow then I went to Saint Petersburg and then I arrived at this border crossing“, he said, assuring that he had been “helped by someone» to reach Finland. “We don’t pay» for this trip, he says. “We met an official here in Finland who asked us where we were from, our names and our passports», adds the asylum seeker. “Then we’ll grab our stuff and wait for the next steps“, he said.

The four border crossings are planned to be closed until February 18, 2024, with four other crossings remaining open in northern Finland. Relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated considerably since February 2022 and the Russian offensive in Ukraine, an attack which led Finland, worried about its own security, to join NATO.

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