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Finland Plans Closure of Eastern Border Crossings

Migrant Influx Prompts Action

In response to a surge in undocumented migrants appearing at Finnish checkpoints, the nation is set to shut down half of its border crossings with Russia. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo alleges that these migrants are being “assisted, motivated, and orchestrated” by Moscow.

The decision, effective Friday night, entails closing four border crossings until February 18. Simultaneously, asylum applications will be centralized at two designated locations, addressing the recent influx of migrants, primarily Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, and Somalis, many arriving on new bicycles, as walking to the border is prohibited.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen described these migrants as young, healthy individuals possessing valid residence permits for Russia, asserting that they are being systematically directed into Finland.

Government’s Swift Measures

Prime Minister Orpo emphasized the government’s swift response to prevent border tensions from escalating, characterizing the situation as a coordinated effort to facilitate and organize the arrival of over 280 asylum seekers. He highlighted legislative amendments enabling the use of specific tools under the Border Guard Act to address such scenarios.

While the closure aims to curb illegal entry into Finland, the government remains open to implementing “even stronger measures if necessary.”

Finnish Security Concerns

Finland’s defense minister labeled the increased migrant numbers as a form of “hybrid warfare” by Russia, echoing President Sauli Niinistö, who, during a state visit to Germany, described Moscow’s actions as “malice” in response to Finland’s NATO affiliation.

This tactic of using migrants as a geopolitical tool is not new. In 2016, almost 1,000 migrants arrived at an Arctic border post between Finland and Russia, believed to be facilitated by Russian authorities, demonstrating a “proof of concept” hybrid operation. Plans for a 200-kilometer border fence with advanced surveillance equipment are underway, although only smaller sections have been completed to date.

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