Wednesday December 13, 2023
Finland’s government said Tuesday it will reopen two of its eight border crossings along its 1,340-kilometer border with Russia.
The government had previously closed all eight border crossings following a sudden influx of migrants entering the country through Russia.
Finland reported it received around 1,000 migrants from August to late November when the country shut its border, with 900 arriving in November alone, an increase from the usual fewer than one migrant arriving per day.
“Without dismantling the restrictions, we cannot verify whether a change for the better is taking place. If the phenomenon continues, we will close these border crossing points,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said Tuesday at a news conference.
The migrants arrived without proper visas or valid documentation, hailing from countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Finland’s government has accused Russia of deliberately funneling migrants into their country to try to destabilize the country, a move that Helsinki alleges was done by the Kremlin in response to the Nordic nation joining NATO, as well as its increase in defense cooperation with the United States.
Moscow has denied claims of funneling migrants into Finland.
Initially, Finland thought the migrants were using Russia as a transit country en route to entering the European Union. However, it later became clear that most of them had been living, working or studying in Russia with legal visas, according to Finnish border officials.
“The purpose of [Moscow’s] actions is to destabilize our society. We cannot allow this. If the operation continues, the border will be completely closed again,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said at the news conference. “It’s not about the numbers [of migrants] but the phenomenon itself.”
The Council of Europe expressed “concern” over the rights for refugees in a letter in which they acknowledged an understanding of Finland’s “concerns about the potential instrumentalisation” of migrants by Russia but said obligations to maintain protection for migrants must still be met.
The two border crossings are expected to remain open until at least January 14.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.