Finland has decided to shut down four major border checkpoints with Russia because more and more people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, are trying to seek asylum. This action is taken amid growing strains with Russia, especially since Finland wants to join NATO and is working together on defense with the US.
Border Closure and Asylum Seeker Surge
- Interior Minister Mari Rantanen confirmed that the border crossings in Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra, and Niirala will shut down on Saturday.
- These crossings, crucial travel points between the two nations, witness around 3,000 people daily.
- Asylum seekers must now apply at two northern border crossings.
Rising Tensions and Security Measures
The border closure reflects the growing strain in Russia-Finland relations, further intensified after Finland abandoned its long-standing policy of military non-alignment to join NATO. This response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was met with threats of unspecified “countermeasures” from Moscow.
- Finland has observed an uptick in undocumented arrivals, predominantly from Africa and the Middle East.
- Finnish officials suspect Russia’s encouragement in directing people to the Finnish border.
- Finland is also constructing a 200km fence along a section of the border, expected to be completed by 2026.
Russian Retaliation and International Relations
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö suggested the migrant surge could be Moscow’s retaliation for Finland’s NATO decision. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized Finland’s readiness for “various actions from Russia” given its EU and NATO membership.
- The Finnish Border Guard has restricted crossings by bicycle at three checkpoints due to illegal entry concerns.
- Russian authorities have reportedly started allowing individuals to travel to Finland without proper documents.
Historical Context and Current Developments
Finland’s history with Russia includes past surges of migrants seeking asylum across the Russian border, notably in late 2015 and early 2016. The recent developments mark a significant shift in the decades-long cooperative border management between Finland and Russia.
- Approximately 280 third-country migrants have arrived in Finland from Russia since September.
- Migrants mainly hail from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and Somalia, often using Russia as a transit country.
- Finland’s NATO membership and new defense agreement with the United States have further strained relations with Moscow.
Continued Developments and International Response
The changes at the Finland-Russia border are getting a lot of attention from countries around the world and neighbors as well. The European Union, which includes Finland, is worried about how these events might shake things up in the area and change the flow of people moving around.
- The EU has pledged to support Finland in managing the influx of asylum seekers and maintaining border security.
- NATO, which Finland recently joined, is also keeping a watchful eye on the situation, given its broader implications for European security.
- Human rights organizations have urged for fair treatment of asylum seekers and adherence to international asylum protocols.
Impact on Finland’s Domestic and Foreign Policy
The border closure and the migrant surge have significant implications for Finland’s domestic and foreign policy. Domestically, the government faces the challenge of balancing national security concerns with humanitarian obligations. Internationally, the move is likely to influence Finland’s relations with both Russia and its Western allies.
- Finland’s government is under pressure to ensure efficient border management while respecting the rights of asylum seekers.
- The decision could potentially impact Finland’s trade and diplomatic relations with Russia.
- Finland’s alignment with Western military and political structures is expected to strengthen, reinforcing its commitment to NATO and the EU.
Finland has shut its borders tight, taking a strong position against what it sees as deliberate moves by Russia. This step is crucial for the country’s safety and managing who comes in. It highlights the tricky political situation in Europe, especially with Russia’s conflict in Ukraine still happening.
For more detailed information on Finland’s border closure and its implications, you can refer to Al Jazeera’s coverage.
- Interior Minister Mari Rantanen’s announcement on the border closure.
- Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s statement on the situation and Finland’s preparedness.
- Historical context of Finland-Russia relations and previous migrant surges.