After accusing Moscow of intentionally assisting migrants in entering the country, Finland has decided to close all of the crossings that are located on the Russian border.
Now, according to the administration, the final one, which is situated in the Arctic Circle, will close on Thursday for a period of two weeks.
In November, there were over 900 asylum seekers who entered Finland from Russia, which is an increase from the average of fewer than one per day.
According to the police, they originate from a variety of nations, including Morocco, Pakistan, and Syria.
The Prime Minister of Finland, Petteri Orpo, issued a statement in which he stated that Finland is “determined to put an end to the crossings.”
The government claims that Russia is conducting what it refers to as a “influence operation” and a “attack” by sending asylum seekers to Finland. Additionally, the government has been gradually closing more and more border stations.
Until Friday, the Raja-Jooseppi crossing was the only road crossing that was still operational; however, it will also be removed from service.
The federal government has stated that a rail crossing will continue to be accessible for freight traffic.
On Monday, there were just three migrants who entered Finland through Raja-Jooseppi, and on Tuesday, there were none. However, the government stated that it was not taking any chances with what it considered to be a threat to the nation’s security.
Concerns have been raised by Finland’s non-discrimination ombudsman on the possibility that Helsinki is interfering with the right to seek refuge in accordance with international law. This is particularly concerning given that the previous border crossing was approximately 900 kilometers (560 miles) north of the capital.
When Matti Pitkaniitty, a colonel in the Finnish border guard, was asked to comment to the media, he stated that the gradual closure of the border was “definitely” due to legal concerns with the maintenance of Finland’s commitments under international refugee law.
According to Colonel Pitkaniitty, border guards have observed obvious proof of Russian officials assisting migrants in crossing into Finland. For example, there have been cases where Russian border posts have been closed after people have crossed in order to prevent them from returning.
In an interview with the BBC, Pia Lindfors, the executive director of the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, expressed her concern that the decision might motivate asylum seekers to cross border in a manner that takes them away from official crossing points and over the hundreds of kilometers of forests and rivers that make up the substantial border.
“Now that winter has arrived, this could be even more dangerous,” according to Ms. Lindfors.
She went on to say that despite the closures, the authorities in Finland should provide assistance to those who are in need on the Russian side of the border. Furthermore, they should not force those who have crossed the border illegally back into Russia, which is part of the idea of “non-refoulement” under international law.
“I have to trust that Finnish border guards will not break these fundamental principles,” according to Ms Lindfors.