On Wednesday, the Finnish prime minister announced that the country will close all of its border crossings with Russia, save for one, following a surge in Middle Eastern migrants to the EU country that analysts are saying has been orchestrated by Moscow, Agence France Presse reported.
Starting this summer, a few months after Helsinki sought membership in NATO, approximately 700 asylum seekers have entered Finland via Russia without a visa over their 1,300-kilometer shared border, AFP reported. The Finnish government and many international observers labeled the migrant influx as a Moscow-manufactured crisis in response to its northwestern neighbor's NATO bid.
“The government has today decided to close more border posts. Only [the northernmost] Raja-Jooseppi station will remain open,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference on Wednesday. The closures will take effect on midnight, November 24.
Finland already had shut down half of its crossings earlier in November after masses of would-be immigrants from mostly Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia had amassed at the border, many of them on stolen bicycles, the government said.
“Unfortunately, these measures have not been able to stop this phenomenon,” Orpo said.
The government said that “it is clear that foreign authorities and other actors have played a role in facilitating the entry of persons crossing the border into Finland.”
“The situation also involves international crime,” the government said in a statement.
In October, Moscow changed its policy about allowing undocumented migrants to cross into the EU.
Finland officially applied for NATO membership in May 2023.
“This is a systematic and organized action by the Russian authorities,” Orpo said.
The Kremlin denied any involvement in the recent migrant influx.
Immigration from Russia to Finland already was building up after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine starting in February 2022, but before Helsinki’s NATO application announcement. In February, Finland started building a planned, 200-km fence along the Russian border, three meters tall, with barbed wire at the top and with “night vision cameras, lights and loudspeakers,” AFP reported.
Echoing sentiments by other Western observers, such as the Institute for the Study of War, Polish President Andrzej Duda described the recent build-up of migrants as a “hybrid attack” by Russia on the West, and “likened it to the situation at Poland’s eastern border with Belarus."
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