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Finland extends closure of Russian border indefinitely

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April 4, 2024

Finland extends border closure with Russia indefinitely, citing concerns over instrumentalized migration and ongoing tensions

Finland announced on Thursday its decision to indefinitely extend the closure of land border crossings with Russia and expand the list of ports where travel from its eastern neighbor is prohibited.

Finland initiated the closure of land borders with Russia late last year amidst an increasing influx of arrivals from countries such as Syria and Somalia.

Accusations have been made against Moscow for weaponizing migration against Finland, although the Kremlin denies these claims.

Finland's eastern border likely to remain closed, hints Rantanen
Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen conveyed the government’s perspective, stating: “Finnish authorities see this as a long-term situation. We have not seen anything this spring that would lead us to conclude that the situation has changed meaningfully.”

Initially, the government had announced in February that the border closure would last until April 14.

Finland’s shift to NATO membership and US Defense Pact

Finland on April 4 became the 31st member of NATO, wrapping up its historic strategic shift with the deposit of its accession documents to the alliance.
Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto shakes hands with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is between them, April 4, 2023.
 

Finland’s decision to abandon its traditional stance of military non-alignment and join the NATO alliance last year in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has strained relations with Russia. Additionally, Finland has entered into a bilateral defense agreement with the United States.

Despite the border closure, Finland has witnessed some asylum seekers from Russia, and with the onset of spring and rising temperatures, the number is expected to increase significantly.

Minister Rantanen highlighted concerns, stating, “There are hundreds and possibly thousands of people close to Finland’s border on the Russian side that could be instrumentalized against Finland.”

The term “instrumentalized” refers to the alleged manipulation of migrants by Moscow to exert pressure on Finland and the broader European Union regarding their political and military support for Ukraine.

1,300 Entries from Russia, up from the previous daily average of 1

A Finnish border guard speaks to migrants near the crossing between Finland and Russia in Salla, Finland
A Finnish border guard speaks to migrants near the crossing in Salla. 

Last month, the Finnish government proposed temporary legislation to empower border authorities to block asylum seekers attempting to enter from Russia.

The government’s decision to close three ports to leisure boating – on the Baltic Sea islands of Santio and Haapasaari, as well as at Nuijamaa on the banks of an inland lake shared by the two countries – aims to prevent the spread of “instrumentalized” migration as spring approaches.

“This would be dangerous to people seeking to enter Finland and would burden maritime search and rescue (operations),” the Ministry emphasized.

According to the Finnish border authority, over 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria entered Russia between August and December last year, a stark increase from the previous average of one person per day.

Source: Newsroom

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Last Updated:  May 28, 2024 5:27 PM